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An unsung hero: Godfrey’s late-game free throws guide Clemson to Sweet 16

Toby Corriston
Clemson forward RJ Godfrey celebrates during the Tigers’ 72-64 win over Baylor in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Though the Tigers came out victorious in the round of 32, the second round of the NCAA Tournament was not continuously smooth sailing for Clemson.

Despite never allowing No. 3 Baylor to take a lead during the entire contest, the game was closer than head coach Brad Brownell would have liked.

After trailing by 15 points with 6:44 remaining in the second half, the Bears stormed back to cut the game to a 64-61, a one-possession game following a Ja’Kobe Walter and-1 conversion.

Brownell and the Tigers were on the ropes, and to make matters worse, star center PJ Hall was in foul trouble throughout the majority of the game and fouled out with under a minute to go.

Who would help fill in the big shoes of Clemson’s leader and top scorer? Enter sophomore forward RJ Godfrey.

Several starters were rotated thanks to fouls, leading Brownell to rely on his bench. Godfrey was a staple in the Clemson frontcourt throughout the contest, scoring 8 points and grabbing five rebounds.

Most importantly, the sophomore played in both halves down the stretch, making the baskets and boards that he earned twice as important.

The most important moment of Godfrey’s performance came when he sank two free throws with 29 seconds remaining to seal the win. One miss and Baylor would have had the chance to force the contest into overtime.

Entering the game with a 56% free-throw percentage, Godfrey gave the team a two-possession cushion to keep the Tigers dancing.

The reason for this success, Brownell said, is from putting the work in outside of practice time.

“He’s been shooting free throws and extra threes for about 20-30 minutes every day for months, and this culminates in a moment like this,” Brownell said after the win. “This is something he will remember and certainly something that we will talk about to the rest of the guys.”

Godfrey credited Clemson assistant coach Jeff Reynolds for the help on his shooting practices, using a mental tactic on important trips to the charity stripe.

“Just shout out to coach Reynolds; we drill free throws every day,” Godfrey said. “Coach Reynolds always says ‘routine rhythm,’ and I was just like, ‘calm down, routine rhythm.’

“I just followed what he said and knocked them down.”

After the buzzer sounded to announce a 72-64 Clemson victory, sending the Tigers to the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years, Godfrey said it was “a dream come true.”

“I can’t believe I’m living this life. Not many people get to do this, and I thank God every day that I am in this position,” he said.

Godfrey and the Tigers will travel to Los Angeles to face the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday, with tipoff set for 7:09 pm at Arena.

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