The Tar Heels, on the strength of a Juana Brown layup with 0.8 seconds left in the second overtime, outlasted No. 25 Clemson 100-99 Thursday in Carmichael Auditorium.
"The highs in this game aren't nearly high enough to make up for the lows," Clemson coach Jim Davis said. "I'm terribly disheartened."
After a Krystal Scott free throw gave the Lady Tigers a one-point lead with 6.7 seconds left in the second overtime period, Brown took the inbounds pass from LaQuanda Barksdale and raced upcourt.
Clemson's defense reacted slowly to the onrushing Brown, giving her enough space to hit the game-winner, an eight-foot runner off the glass.
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell, whose Tar Heels (13-9, 7-5 in the ACC) were victims at home to Virginia on a last-second shot and Duke in overtime, let out a big sigh of relief in the postgame press conference.
"These close games are fun, but I have a tremendous headache," she said.
She might have been able to win a little more comfortably had North Carolina hit more of its free throws.
The Tar Heels were 16-for-28 from the charity stripe, and Chrystal Baptist hit just 4-of-11 herself. Baptist and Leah Sharp each missed a free throw with less than 40 seconds remaining in the second half that could have put the Tigers away.
"They were making theirs, and we were missing ours," Hatchell said. "We've got to get (Baptist's) foul-shooting better."
Instead, Clemson trailed by just two in the final seconds of regulation and tied the game with 8.9 seconds left when Scott found Julie Anderhold for an easy put-away.
Barksdale and Brown each had close-range chances to keep the game from going into extra frames after Anderhold's bucket.
But they both missed, and the marathon began.
UNC rattled off the first six points of the first overtime against a Lady Tiger lineup made up primarily of freshmen. Clemson leading scorer Erin Batth (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Nuria Forns (16 points) each fouled out in the last minute of regulation.
But the Lady Tigers didn't back down. Freshman Lakeia Stokes hit a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to give Clemson (15-8, 6-6) a 91-90 lead.
After freshman Marci Glenney hit
1-of-2 from the line, the Tar Heels sent the game into a second overtime when Sharp came away with the ball during a baseline scramble and scored with just 6.7 seconds on the clock.
Sharp scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc. Her shooting in the second half was instrumental in UNC's comeback from a six-point halftime deficit.
"We didn't play very hard in the first half," Barksdale said. "But we teared it up in all areas to get back in the game."
The teams traded buckets in the second OT. Scott scored two of her 12 points on a penetrating layup with 55.3 seconds left to tie the game 98-98 but could only make 1-of-2 freebies with 6.2 seconds left.
That was all the room Brown and the Tar Heels needed.
"'Ifs' and 'buts' are candy and nuts," Davis said of his team's inability to put the game away. "But that's all in the past."
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