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Tigers advance to Sweet 16 with win over Baylor

After+shooting+0-for-10+from+the+field+in+the+Tigers+loss+to+Boston+College+in+the+ACC+Tournament%2C+Clemson+guard+Chase+Hunter+has+been+on+fire%2C+scoring+20+or+more+points+in+both+games+in+the+NCAA+Tournament.
Toby Corriston
After shooting 0-for-10 from the field in the Tigers’ loss to Boston College in the ACC Tournament, Clemson guard Chase Hunter has been on fire, scoring 20 or more points in both games in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 6 Clemson men’s basketball team made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018 on Sunday as the Tigers triumphed over the formidable No. 3 seed Baylor Bears 72-64 in a nail-biting affair.

Leading for the entirety of the game and going up by as many as 15 points, the Tigers allowed Baylor to claw back and bring the game within two points with under a minute left in the game. Clemson weathered the storm, however, as RJ Godfrey — who shot 55% from the charity stripe this season — sank four free throws down the stretch to help put the game away and win the game.

Clemson controlled the pace on offense to stifle one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The Tigers forced 10 total turnovers and kept Baylor under 40% shooting from the field and only 25% from deep.

On the offensive end, the Tigers did not yield; they played slow and controlled basketball, refusing to give up their lead and taking efficient shots from the field. As a team, Clemson shot almost 50% from the field and 35% from 3-point land.

Chase Hunter’s stellar performance spearheaded the Tigers’ success, as he led the team in scoring with 20 points and added six assists and two steals. It was his second consecutive game with 20 or more points in the Big Dance, leading this experienced Clemson team to success.

“I just wanted to come in and just impact the game,” Hunter said. “Being that I only scored two points against Boston College, and I really wasn’t on it defensively. I wanted to make sure I came in here and I was on it defensively, offensively, just really impact the game at all levels.”

With the win, Brad Brownell became the first head coach in Clemson history to lead the team to two Sweet 16 appearances.

“Obviously ecstatic about the win. Just super happy for my players,” Brownell said. “These guys have been battling all year. And couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to coach. They’ve been just fantastic.”

Ian Schieffelin, Joseph Girard III and Jack Clark also kept the Tigers afloat down the stretch amid adversity. Girard put up 13 points, while Schieffelin added another 11 of his own, as well as six rebounds. Clark led the team with eight rebounds.

Part of Clemson’s success was attributed to the team’s bench depth, particularly in the frontcourt. Three of the Tigers’ starting big men had foul trouble throughout the second half. The most egregious loss was PJ Hall, who fouled out in the final minute, leaving an enormous gap to be filled by Clemson’s bench.

The Tigers found their answer in Godfrey, as he stepped up in Hall’s absence, scoring eight points, snagging five rebounds and was perfect from the free throw line late in the game to solidify Clemson’s victory.

With the win, Clemson will be traveling across the country to Los Angeles to face the No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats in a riveting matchup on Thursday for a chance to make it to the Elite 8. A win over the Wildcats would mark the Tigers’ first Elite 8 appearance in 44 years.

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About the Contributors
Malone Kinard-Huisinger, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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