CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Audra Smith was pessimistic — and with good reason. Against ranked opponents, the Tigers were 0-5 and had been outscored by an average of 30.4 points.
Thursday was different, with Clemson pushing No. 10 North Carolina State to overtime in a 69-63 loss.
"After a game like this, I can't see how any coach can scream and yell and be upset with their kids," Smith said. "You have to be proud of the effort they put forth. I tell them all the time, in basketball, one through four in the country, it's going to be tough. They're the elite of the elite. But from five on down, a lot of times it's anybody's game. Same thing in the ACC."
Nikki Dixon led Clemson (11-15, 3-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 18 points, and Quinyotta Pettway had 17. The Tigers erased a late six-point deficit to force overtime.
"You have to compete," Smith said. "We did that today, but we have to do that all the time. We can't just pick and choose when we do it. That's where we're headed and working on in the downslide of the season. We're working on competing every play, every possession, all the time."
Markeisha Gatling scored 20 points and N.C. State won its sixth straight game and second in a row in overtime. The Wolfpack improved to 22-3 overall and 9-2 in the ACC.
Coming off a 17-17 season, the Wolfpack were picked to finish 10th in the ACC under new coach Wes Moore.
"I think that's part of what we're going through," Moore said. "They don't realize the wind blows hardest at the top of the flagpole. When you've got that ranking, you're going to get everyone's 'A' game. They're going to bring it. We were the hunters, the hungry team to start the season. We were picked 10th in the league.
"Now we've got a chance on the other side of the coin and it's sometimes not as much fun, but we've got to step up and find a way to match our opponents' urgency and energy."
Gatling said the adjustment from hunter to prey isn't easy.