No. 6 Clemson holds off late charge by 3rd-seeded Baylor

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 25 Mar, 2024 at 04:23 AM

Credit: Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

MEMPHIS -- Chase Hunter scored 20 points and added six assists as sixth-seeded Clemson held off a late charge from third-seeded Baylor to win 72-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region on Sunday.

The Tigers, who held a 15-point lead with less than seven minutes left, were clinging to a 66-64 advantage when Baylor's Ja'Kobe Walter missed two free throws that would have tied the score with 36.2 seconds remaining.

Clemson sealed the outcome by hitting six straight at the free-throw line. RJ Godfrey hit four of those free throws and Joseph Girard III added a pair during the final 29.2 seconds as the Tigers (23-11) earned a spot in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Los Angeles against second-seeded Arizona.

"Just super happy for my players," Brad Brownell said. "These guys have been battling all year, and I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to coach. ... These guys never doubted (themselves), never quit. We just kept working and we came into this tournament pretty determined and pretty confident. Just glad to see it paid off."

Girard finished with 13 points while PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin each contributed 11. The Tigers shot 48.9 percent from the floor and were 20-of-24 at the line, including 17-of-20 in the second half.

RayJ Dennis scored a game-high 27 points for the Bears (24-11) and Walter finished with 20. However, Walter made just 5 of 11 free throws and Baylor converted only 16 of 26 at the line, including 10 of 18 in the second half.

"Extremely tough. We work on free throws all the time," Walter said. "So just missing them really hurts for sure. But as a team, we all just stayed together. We know what we've been through this whole season, so we didn't doubt in our minds at all that we were going to be able to come back and make it a game."

Clemson used excellent defense, solid shooting and above-average ball movement to control the first half against one of the nation's most efficient offensive teams.

Baylor hit 57.9 percent of its shots, including 16 3-pointers, in its 92-67 rout of Colgate on Friday. But the Tigers held the Bears to just 33.3 percent shooting in the first half, including going just 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.

"We made sure we got a stop when we needed it. That's what helped us prevail," Hunter said.

Clemson knocked down 52 percent from the floor before halftime and hit 6 of 11 from distance. Seven of eight players who earned minutes in the half scored, although none shined like Hunter.

After scoring a game-high 21 in Friday's 77-56 blowout over New Mexico, Hunter tallied 11 points in the first half. That included a double-clutch, pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired to give the Tigers a 35-25 advantage.

--Bucky Dent, Field Level Media