Gophers dig out 2-OT win over Clemson Minnesota blows lead in regulation, but steps up to Elite Eight, 90-84

Jackson hits career-high 36

With 4 fouls, he leads 1st OT rally, win in 2nd

Minn. point guard hurt

March 21, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO -- There was little to distinguish top-seeded Minnesota from fourth-seeded Clemson in last night's NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal at the Alamodome. Both teams played bone-crunching defense. Both teams went through streaks when they couldn't seem to miss -- or make -- their shots.

But when the game and their respective seasons hung in the balance, the difference was Bobby Jackson.

After shooting the Gophers to a pair of 15-point leads in the first half, then watching the Tigers claw their way back to force overtime, Jackson's will proved stronger than Clemson's muscle. First he led the Gophers back from a six-point deficit in the first overtime, then he shot them to a thrilling 90-84 victory in double overtime.

The senior guard, the Big Ten's reigning Player of the Year, finished with a career-high 36 points, including the last four in the first overtime and 10 of his team's final 14 despite picking up his fourth personal foul with 7: 43 left in regulation.

Jackson had help from junior guard Sam Jacobson, who scored 29. Senior forward Greg Buckner led Clemson with 22, and sophomore guard Terrell McIntyre added 17.

The victory moved Minnesota (30-3) into its first regional final in seven years. The Gophers tomorrow will meet second-seeded UCLA, which rallied to defeat sixth-seeded Iowa State in overtime.

The defeat prevented Clemson (23-10) from advancing to its first regional final since 1980. It also left North Carolina as the only one of six ACC teams still in the tournament.

"Wow -- that's my statement for the game," said Minnesota coach Clem Haskins. "I've been a part of a lot of games -- over 2,000 to be exact as a player and a coach -- and this one ranks right up there with all of them. These guys refused to die. They refused to quit."

Said Clemson coach Rick Barnes: "We all know it was a great game, but right now everyone on our team feels very disappointed. We did a great job to get the game into overtime, but we didn't do a great job executing in the first overtime."

The victory might have come with a heavy cost to the Gophers, who saw starting point guard Eric Harris leave the game with a little over seven minutes left in regulation and not return with what was later diagnosed as a separated shoulder. His status is not certain for tomorrow's game, but as Haskins said, "If we don't have him, that might cost us a national championship."

Despite the loss of Harris, as well as foul troubles on both Jackson and Jacobson, who also played a long time with four personals, Minnesota managed to win after seemingly blowing the game in regulation. After seeing their early 15-point leads cut to six at halftime, after watching an eight-point lead early in the second half disappear all together, the Gophers led by four, 72-68, with 20 seconds left in regulation.

But Tom Wideman tipped in a miss by McIntyre with 8.2 seconds to play and Minnesota's Quincy Lewis was fouled with five seconds to go. After his team had hit 17 of its previous 18 free throws in the half, the sophomore forward missed both. Buckner came out of a scramble with the rebound and fed sophomore forward Tony Christie, who drove the lane and scored on a finger roll at the buzzer.

Haskins blamed himself.

"We didn't want to let them beat us with a three, and we told them to get back on defense," he said. "I think that was a case of overcoaching, because we got too concerned with the three that we let them get an easy basket."

Minnesota's defensive lapse nearly helped the Tigers win the game. Buckner opened the overtime with a three-point shot. After a pair of free throws by Minnesota's Charles Thomas, Merl Code hit another three for the Tigers. Jacobson missed a three for the Gophers, and Buckner hit again, this time from 14 feet, for an 80-74 lead.

But the Tigers failed to score on their last four possessions, with McIntyre missing a couple of mid-range jumpers and then, after baskets by Courtney James and Jackson pulled Minnesota to within two, lost the ball to Jackson, who tied the game at 80 on a layup with 45 seconds remaining. McIntyre drove the baseline, was stopped and passed to Mohamed Woni. But the freshman center couldn't control the ball and the buzzer sounded. Again.

"I can't really say why it slipped away, I guess we dropped the ball," said Buckner. "But you've got to give Minnesota credit. They were aggressive when they had to be."

Especially Jackson. With his team leading 82-81 early in the second overtime, Jackson drilled a three. After a succession of missed threes by two tired teams -- including air balls by both Jackson and Jacobson -- Jackson hit another three for an 87-81 lead. He was later fouled, making the second of two free throws to stretch the lead to seven and seal the victory for the Gophers.

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