Despite all the adversity and tough breaks, Tigers have not given up
With senior Shelton Mitchell on the bench and likely done for the season, Clemson needed someone not named Marcquise Reed or Elijah Thomas to step up and make a few plays it its first-round NIT game on Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clyde Trapp and John Newman did the honors.
Trapp scored seven of his 12 points in the last 3:18, while Newman scored six points off the bench and grabbed four rebounds, including a crucial offensive rebound with 17.6 seconds to play to help seal the Tigers’ 75-69 victory over Wright State.
Clinging to a one-point lead, Trapp hit a three-pointer with 3:18 to play that put the Tigers up 66-62. He then followed that with another jumper on their next possession for a two-basket lead at 68-64 with 2:43 to go.
“I thought Clyde showed some growth in terms of stepping up and making a couple of big shots and big plays,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Those were important plays because he scored a bunch of them right at the end when we needed them.”
Newman was 2-for-3 from the field, but his offensive rebound on a Reed missed shot with 17.6 seconds to go was huge.
“He made a lot of really good plays,” Brownell said. “He made a really nice pull up. He made another jump shot. Certainly, the last rebound was big. He made the free throw to put us up four … He gave us some good minutes defensively. He was a live body. He was active.
“He is getting better. There are a lot of things he still needs to do better to be consistent, but that was fun and good and obviously that is a product of Shelton (Mitchell) not playing. He got 20 some odd minutes and he did pretty well tonight.”
Some worried about the Tigers’ motivation in the NIT after just getting passed for the NCAA Tournament. However, Brownell was not concerned because he liked what he saw from his team’s attitude in Monday’s practice.
“It was good. I really thought our guys were probably better than what I would have imagined,” he said. “This team has been good that way all year. All the adversity, the close losses and tough situations and heartbreaking locker rooms, they have always come to practice with a good attitude. They want to keep pushing.
“That is all you can ask as a coach. They are going to keep coming and be coached and do what we try to do to win. There have been times when we have not performed as well as we like, but I can’t fault the way they have approached things and the effort to go into games. This was no different and that was really good to see.”
Clemson will try to keep things going in the second round. The Tigers will play the winner of Wednesday’s Furman-Wichita State game in the second round at Littlejohn. The date and time have not been set.