CLEMSON, S.C. - If Larry Shyatt is considering another career, maybe he should join the Psychic Friends Network.
After his team's 34-point loss at North Carolina State on Wednesday night, Shyatt said the loss was good for his team because it plays well in games after lopsided victories.
Shyatt wasn't joking.
The Tigers snapped their eight-game losing skid and stunned top-ranked North Carolina 85-65 on Sunday in front of a capacity crowd of 11,200 fans at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson used a combination of defenses, most notably the triangle-and-2, and shot 49 percent (16-of-33) from the floor in the second half to overcome a five-point halftime deficit.
After Wednesday night's loss, Tiger players did some soul-searching and came into Sunday's game with a different attitude.
"It may have been an unlikely time against an unlikely team, but the last two days haven't been very good," Shyatt said."... But I guess there's no better way perhaps to get rewarded and get yourself out of that position than to earn a win against an excellent, talented and well-coached team."
Junior guard Jamar McKnight came off the bench in the second half and scored eight points while sophomore forward Tomas Nagys hit five second-half points, including a crucial 3-point basket during a 10-0 Clemson run, to help propel the Tigers to their first victory since beating N.C. State 72-69 on Jan. 13.
Nagys hoisted Shyatt into the air with five seconds left in the game. When the game ended, Clemson fans stormed half court to celebrate the victory while Shyatt dashed behind his team's bench and hugged his wife, Pam, amid the celebration.
"I told her sometimes I think she's my only friend," said a teary Shyatt. "And she deserved this."
The Tigers applied stiff pressure inside on North Carolina's Brendan Haywood, using sophomore Ray Henderson and senior Adam Allenspach to crash the offensive boards, and got the 7-foot senior in foul trouble late in the second half.
"They changed defenses on us quite a bit, and we did not do a very good job of adjusting to what they were doing defensively," said North Carolina coach Matt Doherty, whose team hadn't played since beating Maryland on Feb. 10.
"When we played against them in Chapel Hill, we were able to hit some shots that forced them to do some things defensively that they did not want to do. But today, Clemson simply did the things they had to do to win the game."
North Carolina (21-3, 11-1 ACC) led by seven points early in the second half, but each time it seemed the Tar Heels were taking control, Clemson found a way to answer.
Clemson used a 14-7 run over the first 4:49 of the second half to take the lead for good at 44-42 on McKnight's reverse layup.
"At halftime, Adam said that we could play with anybody right now because we were focused," said Clemson's Chris Hobbs, who finished with six points. "He said we could win this game and to leave it all on the floor right now, we had nothing to lose and for us to play hard."
Will Solomon's 3-pointer gave the Tigers a 47-43 lead with 14:38 left, then Clemson held the Tar Heels scoreless over the next 5:43 while using a 7-0 run to extend its lead to 54-45.
North Carolina trimmed Clemson's deficit to 61-60 at the 3:47 mark on Haywood's dunk but couldn't draw any closer.
Tony Stockman's steal and layup with 2:53 left pushed the Tiger lead back to four points before Joseph Forte's baseline jumper pulled the Tar Heels to 64-62.
However, Stockman ignited a 5-0 run, including his steal and 3-point basket with 45 seconds left to seal the victory.
"They left me open, and I was going to give it to Will to shoot," Stockman said of the 3-point shot. "But I knew if we could hit that shot, we could win the game. So I took it because they backed up off me."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.
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