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Extra effort for Gophers

Minnesota senior guard Bobby Jackson said his team doesn't really have any stars.

Hey, Bobby.

Look in the mirror. Your reflection is awfully bright.

Jackson scored a career-high 36 points, including four in the first overtime to force a second overtime in which he added five, as the top-seeded Golden Gophers hung on to beat Clemson 90-84 Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals at the Alamodome.

The Gophers (30-3), ranked No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, play the winner of the UCLA-Iowa State game Saturday for the chance to advance to the Final Four.

Their only other trip to the final eight was in 1990. They lost to Georgia Tech's "Lethal Weapon 3" attack of Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson and Brian Oliver 93-91.

Clemson (23-10), the No.

4 seed, certainly proved that its 16-1 start this season, which included a win against defending national champion Kentucky, was no fluke, as it believed some folks thought after it struggled down the stretch.

The Tigers fell behind in the thrilling, physical battle by as many as 15 points twice in the first half to the torrid-shooting Gophers. But they rallied and tied the score at 72 when forward Tony Christie took a feed from forward Greg Buckner and hit a driving layup at the buzzer.

In the first overtime, Minnesota appeared ready to become the first No.

1 seed to fall in the tournament. Buckner opened with a three-pointer, and after a pair of Minnesota free throws, senior guard Merl Code hit a three-pointer, and Buckner followed with a jumper for an 80-74 lead with 3:07 left.

Forward Courtney James scored inside, and Jackson forced a second overtime when he hit consecutive driving layups in the final 1:22. He even had a chance to win it, but his shot at the buzzer bounded off.

Not to worry.

Guard Quincy Lewis, who missed two free throws in the final 8.2 seconds of regulation that allowed Clemson to tie the score, started the second overtime with a stickback. After Buckner hit a free throw, Jackson hit only his second three-pointer of the game to give Minnesota an 85-81 lead with 3:55 left.

With the shot clock winding down, Jackson swished an off-balance jumper for an 87-81 lead with 42 seconds to go, all but sealing the win that once looked as if it would be relatively easy for the Gophers to get.

After a ragged start in which the teams combined for eight turnovers in the opening 90 seconds, the Gophers started holding on to the ball.

Just long enough to drop shots, that is.

With Jackson and forward Sam Jacobson leading the way, from beyond the arc to inside the lane for one-handed floaters and layups, the Gophers hit 13 of their first 15 shots _ a sizzling 86 percent _ to take a 35-20 lead with 6:31 left.

In the teams' meeting earlier in the season, in the finale of the San Juan Shootout, Minnesota blew open a close game by shooting 66.7 percent in the second half to win 75-65.

But if Gopher fans thought this might be deja vu, they were off the mark. The Gophers suddenly cooled. They missed their last seven attempts and allowed Clemson to gradually cut into the deficit from the free-throw line.

The physical game both teams predicted netted 26 fouls in the half alone and 38 free-throw attempts.

The Tigers, who entered the game shooting 76 percent from the line, made 11 of their next 12 free throws to draw within 40-31 and finally give their pocket of fans something to cheer.

Clemson center Mohamed Woni followed with a layup, and after Minnesota point guard Eric Harris made a free throw, center Tom Wideman tapped in a Code miss at the buzzer to cut the Minnesota lead to 41-35.

The Gophers' inexplicable shooting woes continued in the second half. They hit just two of their first 10 shots.

Clemson took advantage and regained the lead at 49-48 on a uncontested Buckner lay-in, its first lead since 6-4 with 17:29 left in the first half.

Jacobson answered with a jumper in the lane, Minnesota's third field goal in 17:15, to begin a wild few minutes of four lead changes and three ties.

The Gophers' chances weren't helped any when Harris injured his right shoulder. Not only is Harris one of the nation's best defenders, he also is the team's best free-throw shooter. Yet he sat for the remainder of the game on the bench with a ice bag draped over the shoulder.

But the Gophers still had Jacobson.

Jacobson, who set a school record for three-pointers this season with 56, hit his fourth three-pointer of the game to break a 56-56 tie with 6:29 left, and Minnesota seemingly took control thereafter, building a 70-64 lead with less than two minutes left.

A Wideman jumper and a Buckner fastbreak layup brought Clemson back within 70-68 with 33 seconds left. Jackson answered with a pair of free throws, but a Wideman tap-in cut the deficit to a single basket.

With 8.2 seconds left, Lewis drew a foul and missed both free throws. John Thomas scooped up the loose ball under the basket but lost it to Buckner. He raced up the middle of the court, dished off to Christie at the arc and he drove the lane for a buzzer-beating layup to force overtime.

But the rest belonged to Jackson.

The news before the game was that Tennessee was given permission to interview Clemson coach Rick Barnes about the its coaching job. Clemson athletic director Bobby Robinson said he was assured by Tennessee counterpart Doug Dickey that school officials would wait to approach Barnes until after Clemson's season was over, the Greenville (S.C.) News reported.