SAN DIEGO — While everyone else was surprised by Clemson’s 84-53 victory over Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday, Clemson wasn’t.
“We feel like we can be dominate every time we come out on the court,” center Elijah Thomas said afterward. “Like I said, Coach (Brad) Brownell and our coaching staff, they come up with these amazing game plans and defensive schemes.
“He is a defensive minded coach, so when we step out on the court against anybody we play, we feel like we can dominate on the defensive end.”
Clemson (25-9) did not just dominate Auburn on the defensive end of the court, they embarrassed them.
Auburn (26-8) shot just 25.8 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three-point range. In the last 10:33 of the first half, Auburn was 0-for-18 from the field, and was outscored 25-4 by Clemson during that span.
“I feel like they had a couple of good looks and they want to be able to knock’em down, but we play well defensively like that,” guard Gabe DeVoe said. “The easy looks don’t go in all the time. I think the pressure and our defensive intensity really bottled them up offensively.”
To continue to prove Clemson’s dominance, the ACC’s Tigers outrebounded Auburn 50-32. Clemson had 41 on the defensive side of the glass.
Thomas led the Tigers with 11 rebounds, eight on the defensive side, to go along with his 18 points. He also had 3 blocked shots.
“We got stops. They missed a couple of easy shots of course, but we got stops and got out in transition,” guard Shelton Mitchell said. “Eli ran the floor great that helped us get some easy ones and Gabe made a couple of threes and made a couple of plays.
“I really was not surprised.”
DeVoe finished the game with 22 points to lead all scorers and had five assists, while Mitchell had six assists, six rebounds and 10 points.
Clemson’s 31-point victory was the largest margin of victory in an NCAA Tournament game in the program’s history, as well as the largest against a ranked opponent in Clemson history.
And with all of that said, Clemson is headed to it is first Sweet 16 in 20 years and only for the fourth time in school history.
“It has not hit me, yet,” Mitchell said. “It probably will not hit me, to be honest with you, until I talk to my dad.”