CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson coach Audra Smith was pessimistic -- and with good reason. Against ranked opponents, the Tigers were 0-5 and had been outscored by an average of 30.4 points.
Thursday was different, with Clemson pushing No. 10 North Carolina State to overtime in a 69-63 loss.
"After a game like this, I can't see how any coach can scream and yell and be upset with their kids," Smith said. "You have to be proud of the effort they put forth. I tell them all the time, in basketball, one through four in the country, it's going to be tough. They're the elite of the elite. But from five on down, a lot of times it's anybody's game. Same thing in the ACC."
Nikki Dixon led Clemson (11-15, 3-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 18 points, and Quinyotta Pettway had 17. The Tigers erased a late six-point deficit to force overtime.
"You have to compete," Smith said. "We did that today, but we have to do that all the time. We can't just pick and choose when we do it. That's where we're headed and working on in the downslide of the season. We're working on competing every play, every possession, all the time."
Markeisha Gatling scored 20 points and N.C. State won its sixth straight game and second in a row in overtime. The Wolfpack improved to 22-3 overall and 9-2 in the ACC.
Coming off a 17-17 season, the Wolfpack were picked to finish 10th in the ACC under new coach Wes Moore.
"I think that's part of what we're going through," Moore said. "They don't realize the wind blows hardest at the top of the flagpole. When you've got that ranking, you're going to get everyone's `A' game. They're going to bring it. We were the hunters, the hungry team to start the season. We were picked 10th in the league.
"Now we've got a chance on the other side of the coin and it's sometimes not as much fun, but we've got to step up and find a way to match our opponents' urgency and energy."
Gatling said the adjustment from hunter to prey isn't easy.
"It's kind of hard, something we're not really used to," she said. "We're used to getting after people, taking that ranking from them. Now people are coming after us, so it's difficult at times, I'm not going to lie. But we're going to learn how to fight even harder."
Gatling and Kody Burke combined for 10 of the Wolfpack's 13 overtime points.
"We knew we needed it," Gatling said. "Our team goes as we go. We knew we needed it, so we turned it up a notch."
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman added 18 points for N.C. State, making six of 12 3-pointers.
N.C. State didn't trail after scoring the first four points of overtime. The Wolfpack survived a surprising challenge from the Tigers, who entered the game 0-5 against ranked teams, losing those games by an average of 30.4 points.
Clemson trailed 54-48 with 6:13 to play, but held the Wolfpack to two points the rest of the way to force overtime.
Gatling's jumper in the lane gave N.C. State a 56-54 lead with 54 seconds to play, but Clemson answered with Pettway's laser pass to a wide-open Chancie Dunn, tying it with 33 seconds to play.
Len'Nique Brown drove the lane, and her shot was blocked out of bounds with 4.5 seconds left. Gatling's shot went off the left side of the rim with 0.8 seconds left.
N.C. State started overtime with Burke's layup as she was fouled. She missed the free throw, and Burke got the rebound and converted another short jumper for a 60-56 lead.
"To be able to jump out four in overtime, I thought, was a big lift for us," Moore said. "We won Sunday in overtime (at Virginia Tech), so we kept stressing, `We've been there, we've done this, we've got `em right where we want `em, yeah."
The Tigers held a surprising 34-30 halftime lead after shooting 60.9 percent from the field and leading by as many as 11 points. The Wolfpack made just three of 12 tries from beyond the arc in the half.