Wednesday, July 24, 2024

March Madness: No. 6 Clemson survives furious Baylor rally to beat No. Defeated 3 pears and advanced to the Sweet 16

Clemson outplayed Baylor for much of Sunday's second-round NCAA Tournament game.

A furious Bears rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to win 72-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Baylor cut a 61-46 deficit to 66-64 in the final minute of the game. But a trip to the Sweet 16 also included no. Clemson also maintained its rivalry with No. 2 Arizona and never regained the lead.

Trailing by two, the Bears had a chance to tie the game with 36.2 seconds left. But Jakob Walter missed two free throws and the Bears never scored again.

Clemson dominates early

Clemson led the game wire to wire. It stifled Baylor's zone defense en route to a 22-14 lead midway through the first half. It faced a foul problem that threatened its early lead.

All-ACC center BJ Hall went to the bench with 6:19 left in the first half after picking up his second foul. Clemson led 25-20. Ian Schieffelin joined the bench two minutes later with his second foul. But Clemson didn't give up.

With both frontcourt starters on the bench, the Tigers led 35-25 at halftime. Chase Hunter capped off a strong half with a transition 3-pointer at the buzzer in the first half.

Clemson is confident after a strong first half

On Friday, Baylor scored 54 points in the first half in a 92-67 win over Colgate. It is a crime Ranked fifth in Kenpom's adjusted offensive efficiency The first half against Clemson was less than half the total. It produced eight field goals and seven turnovers.

CBS asked Clemson head coach Brad Browning if his team could have played a better first half.

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“No, probably not,” Browning said. “Especially BJ and Ian in foul trouble in the last two minutes.”

It was more of the same early in the second half. Clemson continued to attack inside and outside while stifling Baylor's offense. It did so because Hall consistently found the wrong problem. He went to the bench with his third foul at 17:26. When he returned with 10:06 left, Clemson led 52-43. And he made the bears pay.

A Hall dunk on a halfcourt set extended Clemson's lead to 59-46.

Bears rally

But Baylor didn't. The Bears went on a 9-0 run that cut their 15-point deficit to 61-55. After struggling from the field for most of the game, Baylor hit five straight field goal attempts to chip away at Clemson's lead.

On defense, Baylor leaned on the pressure, forcing Clemson into four turnovers in the final 5:10, three of them in the final 1:23. But ultimately, the 15-point hole is too deep. Since winning the national championship in 2021, Baylor ran out of time on its comeback and fell in the Sweet 16 for the third-straight season.

Hunter led the Clemson effort with 20 points and six assists as one of four starters to score in double figures. Hall was limited to 11 points and three rebounds while playing just 19 minutes. He was in foul trouble throughout and was dismissed in 36.2 seconds.

Senior guard Raje Dennis led Baylor with 27 points, six rebounds and three steals. Walter, a freshman, added 20 points and six rebounds. But a 5-of-11 day at the free-throw line, including two misses in the final minute, was huge. As a team, Baylor shot 16 of 26 (61.5%) at the stripe, compounding its struggles from the field (38.9%).

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Meanwhile, Clemson shot 48.9% from the field and hit 20 of 24 (83.3%) free throws. It joins North Carolina, Duke and NC State as the fourth ACC team in the Sweet 16.

The Tigers advanced to a tough matchup against Arizona. But as they proved on Sunday, they are capable of competing with the best teams in the country. During the regular season, Clemson beat No. 4 Alabama and No. 1 North Carolina.

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