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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NCAA TOURNAMENT

Minnesota Staggers to Win

Midwest Regional: Jackson scores career-high 36 points to get Gophers off the ropes for 90-84 double-overtime victory over Clemson.

March 21, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN ANTONIO — With a sweaty blend of exhaustion and elation, No. 1-seeded Minnesota won the Midwest marathon Thursday.

Clemson did not so much lose this regional semifinal as it collapsed at the end on the losing side of an NCAA classic against the Golden Gophers, 90-84.

Two overtimes. Fifty-six fouls. Countless dramatic saves and miscues. An Alamodome crowd of 29,231 that surged and waned as the action flared and flowed. One major injury.

And, over and over during the course of this almost three-hour game, the astonishing play of Minnesota guard Bobby Jackson, who scored a career-high 36 points, sank 12 of 13 free throws, had nine rebounds, made the biggest baskets--well, let's say basically single-handedly carried the Gophers to the regional final.

Both Jackson and forward Sam Jacobson, who had 29 points, played with four fouls the final 15 minutes, but neither fouled out.

For the last 12 minutes of this grinding game, Minnesota (30-3) and fourth-seeded Clemson (23-10) traded the lead, the ball and a few forearm shivers.

The Gophers seemed to have the game in control with 8.2 seconds left in regulation, ahead 72-70, and Quincy Lewis shooting two free throws. He missed both, there was a scramble for the rebound, the Tigers came up with it and Merl Code sliced to the basket to tie the score.

Then it was Clemson's turn to take a seemingly comfortable lead, 80-74 two minutes into the first overtime, only to commit two turnovers and watch Jackson score the final five points of the period to tie the score, 80-80.

In the second overtime, Jackson's second three-point basket gave Minnesota an 85-81 lead with 3:50 left, and this time, Clemson could not overcome the deficit.

Greg Buckner led Clemson with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Terrell McIntyre had 17 points.

Minnesota played the final 28 minutes without defensive stalwart Eric Harris, who suffered a separated shoulder running into a screen.

"It's serious enough to cost us a chance at the national title," Gopher Coach Clem Haskins said of the injury to his point guard. "If Eric Harris can play . . . we've got a great chance to represent the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten at the Final Four."

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