Tigers soar into the Sweet 16

Tigers soar into the Sweet 16

Basketball

Tigers soar into the Sweet 16

Clemson advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997

SAN DIEGO — Clemson is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997 thanks to the most impressive victory in the program’s history in an NCAA Tournament game.

Led by a suffocating defense, Clemson soared into the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 Round with an 84-53 victory over No. 4 seed Auburn Sunday at Viejas Arena in San Diego. The fifth-seeded Tigers used a 25-4 run over the final 10:33 of the first half to pull away from Auburn.

Clemson’s previous largest margin of victory in an NCAA Tournament game was 18 points in 2011 in its First Four win over UAB. That win also came under head coach Brad Brownell.

“Obviously, I’m just so proud of my team to play as well as we did on this stage,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said afterward. “It’s not surprising because we have played well lately and we have good players.

“These guys have really done an unbelievable job all year of buying into what we’re trying to do.”

The win was also Clemson’s third over an SEC team this season. The ACC’s Tigers beat Florida and South Carolina in the regular season. The 31-point victory over Auburn, who finished the season ranked No. 19 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll, is the largest margin of victory over a ranked team in Clemson history.

“That was a dominating performance by Clemson,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “They played great. They have been playing really well. They have great guard play. “(Elijah) Thomas is a factor. They are extremely well-coached. They dominated us.”

Clemson advances to face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16—just the fourth in the program’s history—next Friday in Omaha, Neb.

On Sunday in San Diego, Clemson’s defense forced Auburn to miss their last 18 shots of the half during that stretch.

Clemson (25-9) got 22 points from Gabe DeVoe, who connected on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-9 from three-point range.

“It was just about going out and playing with a lot of confidence,” DeVoe said. “My teammates believe in me and I believe in myself. I’m going out there playing free-minded and shooting the ball with confidence.”

DeVoe had five assists and five rebounds to go with his 22 points.

Marcquise Reed added 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Clemson shot 48 percent from the field overall, and made 10 three-pointers on 26 attempts.

Center Elijah Thomas finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The junior was 7-of-10 from the field.

Point guard Shelton Mitchell had a nice stat line, too. He had 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.

“The game plan was to just come out and attack and that is what we do,” Mitchell said.

With the game tied at 13-13, Reed hit a jumper in the lane with 11:42 to play in the first half and Clemson never trailed again. From that point, Clemson outscored Auburn 30-6 to close the half. Reed, DeVoe, Mitchell and Thomas all took part in the game-breaking run.

Clemson held Auburn (26-8) to just 26 percent shooting overall, including 18 percent in the first half.

“I think it’s a statement game,” Reed said. “I think we showed how hard we can compete defensively. I think it was a real good game for us moving forward.”

Things got even better for Clemson in the second half as it extend its lead to as many as 41 points. DeVoe got hot as he hit four threes in the first 10 minutes of the half.

Thomas also got in the act, recording his eighth double-double of the season.

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