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NC State’s Markell Johnson injures knee in loss to Clemson

N.C. State's Markell Johnson (11), right, beats Virginia's Ty Jerome to the loose ball during the first half of game against Virginia at PNC Arena on Feb. 25, 2017. Johnson injured his knee against Clemson Wednesday night.
N.C. State's Markell Johnson (11), right, beats Virginia's Ty Jerome to the loose ball during the first half of game against Virginia at PNC Arena on Feb. 25, 2017. Johnson injured his knee against Clemson Wednesday night. ehyman@newsobserver.com

If something can go wrong, it will for N.C. State this season.

Promising freshman guard Markell Johnson injured his left knee about 9 minutes into Wednesday’s 78-74 loss at Clemson.

Johnson, who made his third straight start, did not return to the game, and his status for the ACC tournament is unknown. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI at 5 p.m. on Thursday in Raleigh.

N.C. State (15-16) finished its regular season at 4-14 in the ACC after another conference loss on Wednesday at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.

Johnson had to be carried off the court by two members of N.C. State’s support staff after he collided with two Clemson players while going for a loose ball at 11:09 in the first half.

Clemson forward Elijah Thomas missed a shot from close range and then tipped the rebound back toward the top of the key. Thomas chased after the ball while Johnson crashed from the left wing and Clemson guard Marcquise Reed converged from the top of the key.

The three players met at the ball, and Thomas, who dove for the ball, crashed into Johnson’s left knee with his shoulder.

Johnson averages 4.0 points and 2.3 assists per game on the season but has had an expanded role recently. He averaged 9.3 points and 4.0 assists in 35.3 minutes against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried has used Johnson at the point to move freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. off the ball. That has helped open up the Wolfpack offense.

Also, with Smith expected to enter the NBA draft, it was giving Johnson some valuable minutes and a head start on next season.

Even if it’s a minor injury, there’s not a compelling reason for Johnson to play in the ACC tournament next week in Brooklyn.

Clemson’s win locked the Tigers (15-14, 5-12 ACC), who still have a home game with Boston College left, into the No. 12 seed.

That means if Pittsburgh (15-15, 4-13) loses at Virginia on Saturday, N.C. State will be the No. 13 seed, by virtue of a head-to-head to tiebreaker.

In that scenario, N.C. State and Clemson would meet again on Tuesday, at noon, in the opening round of the ACC tournament at the Barclays Center.

If Pittsburgh were to knock off Virginia, the Panthers would be the No. 13 seed and N.C. State would be the No. 14 seed and play the No. 11 seed in the night game (7 p.m.) on Tuesday.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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