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‘Everybody was against us’: Hunter on NCAA Tournament win

Toby Corriston
Clemson guard Chase Hunter drives the ball during the game against New Mexico in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 22, 2024.

On March 13, Clemson guard Chase Hunter saw rock bottom in what could have been one of his final games as a Clemson Tiger. Nine days later, he became Clemson’s hero, giving the Tigers their first win in the NCAA Tournament since 2018.

“Everybody was against us. We just knew we could do it,” Hunter said on Friday following Clemson’s 77-56 win over New Mexico. “We were ready to fight, and we came out and did that.”

The team’s last game was not ideal for the guard. The Tigers struggled in their first game in the ACC Tournament, falling 76-55 to Boston College. Hunter, a key contributor throughout the entire season, could not find a rhythm in the game. The redshirt senior sank none of his 10 attempts from the field and finished with just 2 points on two made free throws.

“Game-wise, we have to be able to fight through adversity,” Hunter said on Thursday. “We’ve had some games that we started off great, then the team comes out and makes a run. As three leaders, we have to be able to step up.”

Luckily for the Tigers, their performance throughout the regular season gave them a slight cushioning for the NCAA Tournament, landing them a No. 6 seed on Selection Sunday last weekend.

Nonetheless, they were picked by many to be upset against their upcoming opponent, the No. 11-seeded New Mexico Lobos.

The Lobos were one of the hottest teams in college basketball, winning four straight en route to their Mountain West Tournament Championship. After winning a conference that sent four teams to the Big Dance, they entered Friday as a 2.5-point favorite.

Despite the Tigers’ loss nine days prior and a formidable opponent at hand, Hunter put any adversity behind him and delivered a season-high 21-point performance while adding six assists and two steals. From hitting acrobatic layups to nailing important 3-pointers, Hunter was everywhere on offense.

“I’m a confident player,” Hunter said after the win. “I feel like I let my team down in the ACC Tournament. So, coming into this game, I wanted to make sure I was poised, confident (and) making plays for my other teammates, and that is what I did.”

Most importantly, Hunter scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, preventing any possible late New Mexico comeback. Of his 15 second-half points, 12 came from 3-point land.

Fueled by the win, Hunter continues to have his heart set on championship gold, as the team will face the No. 3-seeded Baylor Bears on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If Hunter and the Tigers defeat the Bears and advance, it would mark their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2018.

For the veteran leader, he believes that the team can make it to the second weekend.

“I want this team to go down in history,” he said. “We want to go down in history, and I think we have the chance to. We have a great team, a veteran team. A lot of old guys that don’t want their careers over right now. We are going to make sure that we make some noise.”

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About the Contributors
Griffin Barfield
Griffin Barfield, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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