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Mar 28, 2024 9:40 pm

Clemson upends Arizona, makes first Elite Eight since ’80

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LOS ANGELES — Chase Hunter’s and-one play with 25.7 seconds remaining capped his game-high-matching 18-point performance, and No. 6 seed Clemson held off second-seeded Arizona to earn its first trip to the Elite Eight since 1980 with a 77-72 win in the NCAA Tournament West Regional on Thursday.

Clemson (24-11) led nearly wire-to-wire behind the play of Hunter — who also had six rebounds and five assists — and PJ Hall, who scored 17 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Ian Schiefflin added 14 points, including some pivotal baskets in the second half, and snared seven rebounds.

Clemson hit five of its first seven 3-point attempts and scored 11 points off turnovers by the under-eight-minute media timeout of the first half, pushing its lead to as many as 13 points.

Arizona (27-9) went to a full-court pressure defense that turned the game’s tempo more in the Wildcats’ favor. After cutting the deficit to eight by halftime, Arizona opened the second half on a 12-4 spurt.

Oumar Ballo, who missed his first six free-throw attempts, garnered loud applause when ending the drought. A steal by Kylan Boswell and assist to a streaking Caleb Love on the ensuing Clemson possession gave Arizona its first lead at the 14:32 mark.

It did not lead again the rest of the way.

A pair of Jaden Bradley free throws with 9:55 remaining tied the game at 56-56, but a quick answer with a Hall lay-in and Schiefflin’s banked-in 3-pointer from the top of the key pushed the Clemson lead back to five points.

Arizona went through a scoreless stretch lasting 4:19 during which the Tigers had opportunities to extend their advantage but could not capitalize. The gap grew to no more than seven points.

The Wildcats pulled to within two on a late 3-pointer by Bradley (18 points) but could not bridge the gap. Bradley went 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, while the rest of Arizona’s shooters finished a combined 3-of-24.

All-American Caleb Love, who scored 13 points, went 0-of-9 from long range.

Ballo finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds but was just 1-of-7 at the foul line.

–Kyle Kensing, Field Level Media

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