Clemson 89, Butler 69
Posted March 17, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — In January, Clemson coach Larry Shyatt never figured he'd get a chance to nosh at the Carnegie Deli.
That's when the Tigers dropped six games in the final minute and felt pretty much done with championship play. But with Harold Jamison's continued inside dominance and four seniors to lead them, the Tigers will head to the NIT semifinals after an 89-69 victory over Butler.
``Some folks in basketball find the negative things in life, but these guys never did,'' Shyatt said Thursday night. ``These guys never got down on themselves.''
There was no reason the past six weeks. The Tigers (19-14) have won six straight at Littlejohn Coliseum and will make their first-ever appearance in the NIT's marquee games at Madison Square Garden.
Jamison scored a career high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including seven dunks.
``This feels great with everything that we went through this year,'' Jamison said. ``We definitely wanted to be in that other Final Four, but we'll have to take advantage of this one.''
Jamison, at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, cleared out his own personal space near the baseline and converted a steady stream of bullet passes into easy baskets against the slender, smaller Bulldogs (22-10).
Jamison wasn't the only Tiger hitting the boards. Center Tom Wideman had career highs with 17 points and 17 rebounds.
``It wasn't all (Butler's) fault,'' Jamison said. ``Terrell (McIntyre) and the guys did a good job faking the pass outside and then skipping the ball to me.''
That's when Jamison would coil his legs, spring up and slam the ball through with rim-rattling authority. Officials twice stopped play in the second half to fix rims Jamison bent.
He was 11 of 14 from the field, surpassing his 25 points scored against North Carolina State in January.
``He takes a lot of the pressure off us,'' Clemson guard Will Solomon said. ``He rebounds and beats the boards. I'm just glad he's on our side.''
The Tigers will face Xavier on Tuesday night. No team the past two decades had been in more NITs than Clemson's nine appearances and not reached New York City.
Butler, which had been to the past two NCAA tournaments as Midwestern Collegiate Conference champs, didn't start anyone taller than 6-6 and figured to need some accurate shooting to take down the Tigers.
The Bulldogs hit their shots through the first 15 minutes, trailing Clemson 28-25 after Michael Hicks' second-straight three-point play.
But Jamison broke loose for a thunder jam and Solomon nailed an inside floater as Clemson closed the half with an 11-4 run and led 39-29.
Jamison, once recruited by Florida to play football, showed his strength in the second half with a pair of dunks that had Clemson up 52-38 with 13:43 left.
LaVell Jordan's third 3-pointer of the second half brought the Bulldogs to 61-54 with 7:01 left. But Andrius Jurkunas and Wideman converted three-point plays and McIntyre added a 3-pointer as Clemson took command.
``We have not faced as physical and dominating inside team as Clemson in the last three years,'' Butler coach Barry Collier said. ``All that comes to mind is that I hope we don't see them again.''
Thomas Jackson had 17 points and Jordan 15 for Butler, which had won 17 of 20 games coming in.
McIntyre scored 21 points for the Tigers. When it was finally over, the Clemson seniors - Jamison, McIntyre, Wideman and Tony Christie - stood on the scorer's table and basked in the Littlejohn Coliseum cheers one last time.
The sound system blared Frank Sinatra's ``New York, New York,'' and Christie told the fans, ``We're going to do you proud in New York.''
``It really was all their seniors,'' Collier said. ``Those three are the ones who'll be scaring me tonight in my dreams.''
Collier called team plays with large flashcards, but nothing helped keep Jamison away from the basket. Bulldogs leading scorer Michael Marshall fouled out with seven minutes to go. Reserve Bjorn Gieseck, Butler's tallest player at 6-10, had three fouls in the first half and was barely seen the rest of the game.
But no one's really had an answer for Jamison lately. He's had 53 points and 40 rebounds in the NIT and double figures in both categories in seven of his last nine games.
Jamison's play has helped Clemson turn a disappointing Atlantic Coast Conference season - the Tigers were 5-11 and lost in the tournament's first round - into something special.
Next stop, New York where Shyatt says he'll drop by the famous deli.
``Maybe, just maybe, they can finish the job and get themselves some rings,'' he said.