Tigers’ three guards combined to score 60 of Clemson 79 points
SAN DIEGO — New Mexico State was on a run late in Clemson’s 79-68 victory Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
The Aggies, who trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half, rallied to cut the Tigers’ lead to six points, 68-62, with 5:57 to play in the game. However, that was as close as they would come.
On Clemson’s next possession, Shelton Mitchell sank a three-pointer with 5:28 to go that put the Tigers back up nine points and they never looked back from their in securing their first win in the first round of the tournament since 1997.
“I was not surprised by the plays, especially the plays Shelton made down the stretch,” senior guard Gabe DeVoe said afterward.
Mitchell later hit two free throws and then a layup to extend the Tigers’ lead back to 13 points with 2:34 to play. The junior finished the night with a team-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three-point range. He also had five assists.
“His composure and his ability to get to the lane make him hard to stop,” DeVoe said. “I feel like no one can guard him one-on-one, especially when he gets to that left hand. No one can stop him.”
Mitchell’s three with 5:28 to play was the dagger Clemson (24-9) needed to put New Mexico away.
“I came off the ball screen and the guy was too far back so I felt like I could knock it down,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s seven straight points in that three-minute stretch was the cherry on top of what was a dominating performance by Clemson’s three guards. DeVoe scored 22 points for the Tigers on 10-of-15 shooting, including two three-pointers, while Marcquise Reed tallied 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Together, the three scored 60 of the Tigers’ 79 points.
“I know that we are all aggressive and when we take care of the ball we can get hot at any time and hit good shots,” Mitchell said. “There really was not a point of emphasis. We are all aggressive players and we have confidence.”
And when they are playing with the confidence they displayed on Friday, it makes Clemson hard to beat.
“It is very difficult to beat us when all three of us are on,” Mitchell said. “We feel like we can play with anyone. All of us are a confident group. We can all get hot at any time. We all play well and complement each other also.
“Hopefully, we can keep it going. It was not just us. Everyone played well. Aamir (Simms), everyone that played contributed. Eli (Thomas) was a beast as always, so it felt good.”