Jerome Robinson wasn’t ready to go home.
The Boston College guard had finally gotten a winning taste of the ACC tournament, so he wanted to keep playing. Down eight points with 40 seconds left, the junior from Garner made a desperate attempt at a loose ball. He dove head first into Boston College bench.
“We wanted another day in New York,” Robinson said.
It wasn’t meant to be. Clemson made sure of that. After wins over Georgia Tech and N.C. State, the Eagles (19-15) — fueled by their two stars from North Carolina — were knocked out by the third-seeded Tigers, 90-82.
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It wasn’t for a lack of effort from Robinson, who had 20 points, or sophomore guard Ky Bowman, who is from Havelock. Bowman finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists before fouling out with 23.8 seconds left. Clemson led by as many as 16 in the second half before Robinson, who was 4 of 11 from the 3-point line, started the charge back.
Bowman hit back-to-back 3s to breathe some life into the Barclays Center. The second one, at 5:49, had whittled Clemson’s lead all the way down to 63-61. The teams traded free throws before a key 3-pointer by Clemson freshman Anthony Oliver in the left corner gave the Tigers a 68-62 cushion.
The toll from playing three games in three days caught up to the Eagles in the end.
“It was tough for us,” Robinson said. “There were a couple of shots that should have gone in that didn’t. That’s just the way the game goes sometimes.”
A day after a hot-shooting performance in a 91-87 win over No. 5 seed N.C. State, the 12th-seeded Eagles struggled against Clemson’s defense. Boston College shot 50.7 percent in the win over the Wolfpack but finished 40.7 against Clemson, including a 38.2 percent effort (13-34) in the second half.
Bowman, who was 4-8 from the 3-point line, credited the help from Clemson’s bigs on pick-and-roll sets for the Tigers’ relative defensive success.
“It was hard for us to make the second pass,” Bowman said. “That was the difference in the first half.”
Boston College fell behind 43-36 in the first half and then trailed 55-39 before Robinson and Bowman got hot. Neither Robinson nor Bowman were interested in claiming a moral victory but the Eagles matched their conference tournament win total from the previous six years with their wins here this week.
Robinson was a freshman on the BC team that finished 0-18 and then lost to Florida State by 22 points in the ACC tournament. BC went 2-16 in Robinson’s sophomore year, which was Bowman’s freshman year, and lost to Wake Forest in the ACC tournament. This season, the two helped the Eagles go 7-11 in league play and likely into a spot in the NIT with a 19-15 record.
“It was tough to go through those first two seasons,” Robinson said. “When we came here we wanted to turn the program around. We definitely made progress.”
Robinson, who led the ACC in scoring this season and earned All-ACC honors, will have a decision to make about the NBA draft. His father said last month that Robinson will go through the draft evaluation process without hiring an agent.
Robinson said he will lean on his parents and coach Jim Christian for help after getting feedback from the NBA.
“I think I’ll make the right choice, either way,” Robinson said.
If Thursday was his last ACC game, Robinson certainly left it all out on the court.