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Mar 26, 2024 5:09 pm

Unsung heroes help Clemson, Arizona compete in Sweet 16

arizona  dayton

LOS ANGELES — In reaching Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup in the West Region, No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 6 Clemson both showed there is more to their success than stars Caleb Love and PJ Hall.

“It’s so crazy on this team. It can be one guy’s night, then the next guy’s night, doesn’t really matter,” Arizona guard Kylan Boswell said following the Wildcats’ 78-68 win Saturday against Dayton.

Boswell buoyed Arizona (27-8) in its 85-65 rout of Long Beach State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 20 points and dishing eight assists. Against Dayton, Boswell finished with only two points and two assists — but Jaden Bradley came off the bench for 12 points and lifted Arizona defensively with three blocks and three steals.

Meanwhile, All-American guard Love recorded 18 and 19 points in the two wins.

Depth has been a season-long hallmark for Arizona, which heads to L.A. seeking its first trip to the Final Four since 2001. Four Wildcats average more than 11 points per game, led by Love’s 18.1, while the backcourt trio of Boswell, Bradley and KJ Lewis have provided another 9.8, 6.7 and 6.1 points per game, respectively.

“We have a pretty solid eight-man rotation,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “The beautiful thing is I don’t have to sit there and worry about one guy playing great for us to win. That’s a real luxury.”

Clemson (23-11) heads into its first Sweet 16 since 2018 with the 6-foot-10 Hall setting the pace offensively at 18.5 points per game. In the Tigers’ tourney wins over New Mexico and Baylor, however, guard Chase Hunter led the way with 21 and 20 points.

Hunter’s scoring, which included 3-for-5 3-point shooting in Sunday’s 72-64 defeat of No. 3 Baylor, headlined a quartet of Tigers in double figures. Joseph Girard III posted 13 points while Ian Schieffelin and Hall added 11 apiece.

“One of the strengths is the depth of our team,” Schieffelin said after beating the Bears. “We’ve got guys off the bench that can fill anyone’s role, and RJ (Godfrey) was big today. He knocked down some big free throws.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can go,” he added.

Godfrey, who scored six of his eight points against Baylor in the second half, has grabbed five rebounds coming off the bench in each of Clemson’s last three games. He finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting in the 77-56 win over New Mexico.

Godfrey’s defensive contributions will also play a pivotal role when Clemson matches up with Arizona.

The Wildcats average 87.6 points per game, second-highest among teams left in the NCAA Tournament field. The only more prolific offense belongs to Alabama, also in the West Region.

In six of Clemson’s last seven wins, the Tigers held their opponents to 64 or fewer points. They have allowed 70.6 points per game on the season.

Weathering runs from Arizona’s up-tempo offense figures to be a key for Clemson.

“Basketball is going to have ups and downs and quick turns, and you’ve got to be strong to survive it,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said.

–Kyle Kensing, Field Level Media

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