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Clemson tops Arizona, advances to Elite Eight for second time in program history

Toby Corriston
Clemson forward Ian Schieffelin scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Tigers’ upset win over Arizona in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on March 28, 2024.

Dillon Hunter put the nail in the coffin to push Clemson into the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history on Thursday, as the Tigers defeated No. 2-seeded Arizona 77-72 in the Sweet 16. With the win, Clemson advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1980.

Clemson surged to an early lead, stretching it to as much as 13 points in the first half. Arizona clawed its way back, briefly seizing a one-point lead with 14:32 remaining in the second half. However, it was short-lived, as Clemson took the lead back within 20 seconds and didn’t let the Wildcats regain the lead for the remainder of the game. 

Dillon Hunter’s game-sealing layup was his only points in his 14 minutes on the hardwood, but they came at a valuable time, as the basket put Clemson up five points with 11 seconds remaining.

“I’m just thinking, let’s attack the basket. I know they’re going to foul us,” Dillon Hunter said. “I know what that moment was and what it did for our team, and I’m glad I did it.”

Chase Hunter maintained his impressive form from the previous two games in the NCAA Tournament, scoring a team-high 18 points on 8-for-15 shooting. Despite going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, his performance led the Tigers to yet another upset.

“This is what I’ve dreamed of, this is why I came to Clemson, this is why I came to coach Brownell, and it’s a dream come true,” Clemson forward Ian Schieffelin said.

“I just think our guys have a lot of belief in each other. I certainly have a lot of belief in my team. We’re playing good basketball right now,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “Anything can happen in these tournaments, but you have to have good players, and I have good players.”

Brownell’s players were grappling with foul trouble throughout the second half. PJ Hall and Schieffelin both collected three fouls each during the second half, while RJ Godfrey had four with over 10 minutes to play. Nonetheless, they managed to navigate the final stretch without committing any more fouls.

Clemson had key contributions off the bench as well. Chauncey Wiggins led the bench with eight points in just 11 minutes on the court, while Godfrey added seven points in 11 minutes. 

Arizona endured a dismal night from beyond the arc, shooting just 17.9% from deep. Other teams have struggled from deep when facing Clemson in the tournament, with opponents averaging just 18.7% from 3-point range across three games.

Caleb Love, Arizona’s standout player, had a tough outing on Thursday, managing only 13 points on a 5-for-18 shooting performance, including 0-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc.

However, Jaden Bradley stepped up in the second half, igniting Arizona’s offense with 16 points on 3-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. He finished the game with a total of 18 points.

Hall had a slow start but came alive in the second half with a couple of major slams. Despite going just 3-for-8 in the first half and tallying seven points, he found his rhythm and finished strong with 17 points. Reaching the Elite Eight isn’t a surprise for Hall; it was a goal from the very beginning.

“A goal and a checkpoint of this year,” Hall said. “I told these guys before this game started first we’ve played in environments like this, but the Sweet 16 was our base. That’s what we came into the year like, ‘Alright, this is where we’re expected to get to. Now it’s time to rise to the occasion.’ So these guys did exactly that.”

Schieffelin had a solid performance, contributing 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting, along with seven rebounds and three assists. 

Joseph Girard III struggled to find his shot, shooting just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc and finishing with four points for the game. While Girard’s box score won’t stand out, his lone basket on the night was a pivotal 3-pointer from near midcourt that kept Clemson up two scores in the middle of the second half. 

With the win, the Tigers advance to face the winner of Alabama and UNC on Saturday and are positioned for a shot at its first-ever Final Four appearance in program history. 

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Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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