CLEMSON, S. C. (WDRB) – The wise guys say Duke, North Carolina and Virginia are the three safest picks at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The skeptics have buried Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State at the bottom of the league.

What does that leave?

A nine-team scrum in the middle.

Louisville had a splendid opportunity to secure its spot at the top of the scrum Saturday against No. 25 Clemson in Littlejohn Coliseum.

And failed to take it.

Could have won. Should have won. Did not win. That’s how this 74-69 overtime loss to Clemson will be remembered.

Raymond Spalding led Louisville with 16 points before he fouled out in overtime. Deng Adel had 14 and Quentin Snider 13. The Cards beat themselves with 21 turnovers. They were also outscored by eight at the foul line.

Ahead by five early in the second half, Louisville slid behind by eight midway through the final 20 minutes. They erased a 53-47 Clemson lead with 2:28 left on a Deng Adel dunk.

Two free throws by Adel moved the Cards ahead before an Elijah Thomas layup tied it for Clemson.

Out of a timeout with 51 seconds to play, Adel lost the ball on a drive before V.J. King recovered it at midcourt.  The Cardinals reset for the final shot, but launched a strange one.

Quentin Snider drove from the right side to the top of the key, tried to raise the Clemson defender but took a contested three-pointer that hit the front of the rim.

Make it 55-55 and put an extra five minutes on the clock.

The overtime was forgettable. The Cards never led. Louisville suffered two turnovers, a blocked field goal attempt and a miss by Raymond Spalding in the first two minutes. Clemson buried the Cardinals with drives and pair of three-pointers. Ryan McMahon tried to save the Cards with a pair of deep threes. It was not enough. 

The game was even for the first 20 minutes – and neither team played as if intended to push Duke, North Carolina and Virginia at the top of the league. Clemson misses 23 of 34 shots, including 10 of 11 from distance. Louisville turned the ball over 11 times and managed only three-pointer in six attempts.

The Cardinals play two of their next three games on the road, visiting Florida State Wednesday with a Jan. 16 trip to Notre Dame. Virginia Tech will visit the KFC Yum!   Center next Saturday. The scrum continues.

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