No. 6 Clemson rolls to easy victory over New Mexico

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 12:08 AM

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

MEMPHIS -- What happened in Las Vegas stayed in Las Vegas.

New Mexico's brilliant four-game, four-day run to the Mountain West tournament title last week didn't transfer to its first-round game in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Sixth-seeded Clemson got a game-high 21 points from Chase Hunter on Friday and led by as many as 23 points in the second half of a 77-56 rout of the 11th-seeded Lobos.

"I just felt we played at a very high level, had that competitive spirit and toughness," Tigers coach Brad Brownell said. "We were ready ... I certainly felt like if this team could get into the tournament, we can advance."

First-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick PJ Hall scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half as the Tigers (22-11) advanced to a second-round matchup Sunday against third-seeded Baylor, which brushed off No. 14 Colgate 92-67.

"We went into this week with a great mindset, had a couple of great practices," Hall said. "Getting into the tournament wasn't a goal, it was an expectation."

Ian Schieffelin added 16 points and 12 rebounds as Clemson punished New Mexico in the paint, outscoring it there 38-28.

Jaelen House scored 12 points for the Lobos (26-10) before fouling out with 6:27 remaining in the game. Nelly Joseph worked hard inside for 14 points and 12 rebounds but New Mexico never found any sort of rhythm, connecting on just 29.7 percent of its field-goal attempts and going 3 of 23 on 3-pointers.

"We picked the wrong day to go cold," New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said. "We just couldn't make a shot. Clemson has a lot to do with that. You have to make shots against them because they really pack the paint."

Not making shots kept the Lobos from using their pressure defense that frequently creates easy points via turnovers. And the Tigers handled the pressure they saw nicely, committing only nine turnovers. They also converted 13 Lobo turnovers into 19 points.

New Mexico's leading scorer, Jamal Mashburn Jr., was a non-entity in this one. He made only 1 of 11 shots from the field and finished with six points, nine below his average.

Despite battling foul trouble, Hall displayed the inside-outside game that made him one of the toughest covers in the ACC. He drained a pair of 3-pointers in the first five minutes as Clemson grabbed a 14-9 advantage.

The margin reached 30-11 on a Joseph Girard III 3-pointer with 9:51 left, capping a 12-0 run. The Tigers took a 42-28 lead to intermission.

--Bucky Dent, Field Level Media