Clemson’s senior guard was not going to be shy about shooting in her first NCAA Tournament game
Though she missed her first three shots in Friday’s first round of the NCAA Tournament, Dani Edwards did not stop shooting.
In the fourth period, with the game on the line, Edwards could not miss. Clemson’s senior guard, who has waited for her one shining moment her whole life, made all four of her shots in the fourth—all from behind the arc—to help the No. 9 seed Tigers knock off No. 8 South Dakota, 79-66, in the Portland Regional at the Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
“It was amazing,” Edwards said to the Associated Press after the game. “Honestly, I was a little nervous in the first quarter. But once I started going to the basket and trusting my teammates, I got a little comfortable. They did a great job of finding me.”
They found her 10 times overall, including five times behind the three-point line. Edwards was 10 of 17 from the field and connected on 5 of 9 triples.
“Once I hit the first one, I was calling for it whether I was open or not,” she said.
Edwards scored 17 points in the second half, most coming after the Coyotes (28-5) took an eight-point lead at the 6:09 mark in the third period, 44-36. But the Tigers turned up the pressure on the defensive end and South Dakota went cold.
Clemson (20-12) used its pressure defense to force 17 turnovers, scoring 22 points off of them. Most of those were Fastbreak points as Clemson had a 15-2 advantage in transition points.
“As soon as they caught it, we wanted to be in their mouth, making them uncomfortable,” guard Simone Westbrook said. “That’s where we thrive. That’s where we get our offense from is from our defense.”
Westbrook scored a game-high 25 points for the Tigers, while connecting on 11 of 20 shots. She was 2-for-4 from behind the line.
The Tigers used a 15-0 late in the fourth quarter to pull away, earning the program its first tournament win since 2001.
While Clemson was using Edwards’ hot shooting and using its defense to create its offense, the Coyotes could not find its offense. It went over six minutes in the third period without a field goal and was just 7 of 19 in the final quarter.
Of course, a lot of it had to do with Clemson’s defense, which smothered South Dakota all night.
“They put some really good ball pressure on us, they picked us up full court,” said Allison Arens, who scored 15 points for the Coyotes. “We didn’t see that a lot this season. We prepared for it, but sometimes you just can’t prepare for things like that.”
They also weren’t prepared for Edwards to go off for 25 points either. It’s a good thing for Clemson she kept shooting.
Clemson will face top-seed Mississippi State in the second round on Sunday at 9 p.m. The Bulldogs downed No. 16 Southern, 103-46, late Friday night.
Notes: With the start against South Dakota, Edwards took over sole possession of first place in Clemson program history for career starts (122)…Edwards finished the night with 25 points (10-of-17 shooting), tying her season-high for made field goals and career-high with five 3-pointers…Clemson eclipsed the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2000-’01 campaign…This year marks head coach Amanda Butler’s sixth 20-win season as a head coach (1 at Charlotte, 4 at Florida, 1 at Clemson)…Butler also posted her 250th career win.
—Photo courtesy Clemson Athletic Communications