Coming up clutch with a perfectly executed bank shot, Tylar Bennett put Clemson in front with 16 seconds remaining, and the Tigers went on to win their WNIT opener 65-60 on Friday. The go-ahead basket by Bennett put Clemson up 61-60 over the Ohio Bobcats, and a series of Tiger free throws in the final seconds sealed the deal at Bojangles Coliseum.
In the tight-knit contest, the Tigers (12-13) shot 38.5 percent from the floor, while the Bobcats (14-9) finished with a shooting percentage of 38.7. Clemson went 12-for-16 at the foul line and outrebounded Ohio 49-31. On top of corralling 23 offensive boards, the Tigers tabbed 18 second-chance points. Additionally, Clemson scored 38 points in the paint, forced 26 turnovers and held Ohio’s bench scoreless on the afternoon.
Gabby Elliott, Amari Robinson and Delicia Washington all scored in double figures for the Tigers. Washington, who made 7-of-9 free throws, led all players with 19 points to go along with her seven rebounds and six assists. Elliott shot 6-for-14 from the field en route to amassing 16 points. She also pulled down six boards. Robinson notched a double-double with 10 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Bennett and Kendall Spray scored eight points apiece. Furthermore, Bennett grabbed eight boards and blocked two shots, and Nique Cherry contributed four points and seven rebounds off the bench. Ohio’s Cierra Hooks produced a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards.
Just eight seconds into the game, Spray knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist by Washington. Ohio rattled off 13 straight points after that, though, taking a 13-3 lead. Clemson chipped away at its deficit and trailed 18-13 at the conclusion of the first quarter. The Tigers’ final basket of the period came on a lay-in by Washington after she caught a pass from Weronika Hipp in midair.
In the second quarter, Robinson stole the ball and drove to the hoop for a bucket that pulled the Tigers within one. Soon afterward, an Elliott layup at the 5:43 mark gave the Tigers their first lead since 3-0. Elliott made the shot while being fouled and put Clemson ahead 24-22 via the ensuing free throw. In the midst of the Tigers extended their lead, Bennett made a mark on the defensive end with an emphatic block. Clemson went on to take a 31-29 lead into the half.
Spray netted a trey to give the Tigers a seven-point edge early in the third quarter. After the Bobcats took a 37-36 lead, Clemson scored five straight points, two of which came on a hard-fought shot down low by Washington. Elliott beat the buzzer to close out the third quarter with a three-ball made possible by a feed from Washington. The game-tying shot resulted in the fourth quarter beginning with the score knotted at 48-48.
From there, Clemson opened the final period with an 8-0 run that featured two layups out of the fast break by Bennett. The Bobcats clawed back and eventually took a 60-59 lead with 48 seconds on the game clock. Following a frenetic series of events that culminated in the Tigers regaining possession due to an Ohio turnover, Bennett banked in the aforementioned clutch shot. Washington followed that up with a crucial steal, and Clemson wound up winning 65-60.
Next up for the Tigers in the WNIT is a second-round matchup versus the Delaware Blue Hens (22-4). Clemson will remain in Charlotte for the tilt, which is slated to begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 20. The matchup at Bojangles Coliseum can be viewed on FloHoops.
Head Coach Amanda Butler
“That was a really tough win. We beat an outstanding team that had a great game plan today. Ohio made us work hard. I’m really proud of our group.”
On the keys to the win:
“It was a true team effort, when things were going well and when things weren’t going well. I’m just really proud of our crew for making big plays when it mattered.”
On Clemson’s top performers:
“Delicia [Washington] going 7-for-9 from the free throw line is great progress for her. Kendall [Spray] knocked down some clutch free throws for us late. Tylar [Bennett], for whatever reason, plays really well in Charlotte, and, thankfully, we have another game to play in Charlotte tomorrow.”