CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Clemson women's basketball coach Jim Davis, one of the folksiest people in the sport, could only muster a grin over his good fortune in the 22nd-ranked Tigers' 77-75 overtime upset of No. 13 Virginia in yesterday's second semifinal of the ACC tournament at Independence Arena.
A potential game-winning three-point shot from Virginia's Mimi McKinney was on line for the goal, but wedged in a pocket between the rim and the glass on the right side as the horn sounded, propelling sixth-seeded Clemson into today's championship game.
"When I saw it lodge and the buzzer sounded, I couldn't believe it. It was a great feeling," Davis said. "It was definitely bizarre. It was a whale of a basketball game from the tip to that shot."
The Tigers (19-9), the defending tournament champions, squandered a seven-point second-half lead, and shook off a three-pointer from Virginia's Tora Suber that forced overtime against the No. 2 seed. Natasha Anderson hit a layup with 16 seconds to go in the overtime to give Clemson the lead.
Davis' joy might be short-lived, for his reward is a meeting with top-seeded and fifth-ranked North Carolina, which broke open a close game late with No. 24 Duke to win, 77-66.
The Tar Heels (26-2) weathered a strong challenge from the fifth-seeded Blue Devils behind the play of junior guard Marion Jones, who missed nine of 10 three-point attempts, but still had 23 points and three steals.
"You've got to keep shooting until you make it. I missed a lot, but I have a lot of teammates who will make up for it," Jones said.
Said North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell: "Marion plays with vTC such confidence that she brings that confidence to the rest of the team. She can make the big play, both offensively and defensively. If you think about it, with Marion Jones, [in three seasons] we are 33-2, 30-5 and 26-2. That's some kind of leadership."
The speed and athleticism of Jones and her teammates is of principal concern to Davis, whose Tigers lost twice to North Carolina in the regular season, but have more depth and a better half-court offense.
"North Carolina's the most athletic team in the ACC and maybe the country," Davis said. "They have tremendous athletes and if we can't control the tempo, we don't have a chance of winning. We have to protect the basketball, because if it's a steal, it's off to the races and we're looking at their backsides."
Pub Date: 3/02/97