Brownell, Trapp do not believe Simms walked with 37 seconds to play
INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since 1983 Rutgers won an NCAA Tournament game. Unfortunately for Clemson, it came against the Tigers.
The 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991, upset No. 7 seed Clemson, 60-56, Friday night in the Midwest Regional at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“Congratulations to Rutgers. This was tournament basketball,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said after the game. “Their kids played extremely hard, and I thought our guys did as well. Both teams were very physical and aggressive defensively. The defense was better than the offense on both ends.
“I thought the difference in the game was in the second half they got some extra rebounds and a lot of those led to some easy baskets. Like the play at the end, they just had a couple of easy balls that seemed to find their way.”
Rutgers outrebound the Tigers 13-10 on the offensive glass and scored nine second-chance points, two more than the Tigers’ seven.
Clemson had an opportunity to tie or take the lead following a timeout with 40 seconds to play, but senior Aamir Simms was called for a travel with 37 seconds to go. Rutgers’ Geo Baker then made a layup with 10 seconds to go to seal the victory for the Scarlet Nights.
“We kind of went and trapped Baker at the end, and all of sudden, we think we kind of get a half steal and it bounces into somebody’s hands and they lay one in,” Brownell said. “In a game like this where there are ebbs and flows and both teams making runs and competing hard, the easy baskets are often the difference. Give the Rutgers’ kids credit. I thought they got a couple of more easy baskets than we did in the game and that was the difference.”
As for Simms’ turnover with 37 seconds to play, Brownell did not think his senior forward traveled with the basketball.
“I think he took two steps. I think there was contact,” the Clemson coach said. “It was the exact same play we ran against Georgia Tech late in the game and Aamir did about the same thing and scored through a guy to cut it to two (points) in that game.
“Clyde (Trapp) made a read. I probably wish he would have came for the hand-off, but he didn’t. He kind of thought he was going to get a back-cut layup, so he went to the basket and Aamir did not pass it. So, it might have clogged it up a little bit. Aamir still got a drive. We were going to put it in our best player’s hands and drive it to the basket and make a play for our team. That is what you do as a coach. You trust your guys. Unfortunately, they called travel. I will look it, but I don’t think it was.”
With the loss Clemson’s season comes to a close. The Tigers finish the year with a 16-8 record, including a 10-6 mark in the ACC.
In his final game as a Tiger, Simms finished the night with a double-double, as he scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Trapp, who was also playing his final game, scored 14 points, including 12 in the second half. Hunter Tyson added 10 points for the Tigers.
Trapp said on the decisive turnover, he was supposed to throw the ball to Aamir and then cut over.
“We made eye contact on the back cut,” Trapp said. I have all the confidence in the world in Aamir. He has made that play so many times and it is proven at Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State he made a late bucket off that play. It was nothing different than any other game. We just had a bad draw of the hand.
“Like Coach Brownell said. I don’t think he traveled. I am anxious to watch it. At the end of the day, Aamir has made that play so many times that everybody on the team had all the confidence in him. Nobody is blaming him for anything. We don’t blame anybody. It was just a bad draw of the hand right there and it did not go our way.”
Rutgers got 13 points from Baker and Jacob Young, while Caleb McConnell also had 13 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers (16-11) used a 16-2 run midway through the second half to take a 50-39 lead with 9:35 to play following a McConnell three-pointer.
“We got down eleven (points) at one point in the second half. It looked like we were going to cave in, and are seniors would not let that happen,” Brownell said.
The Tigers instead went on a 10-0 and later tied the game at 55-55.
Clemson led by three points at the break thanks to a coast-to-coast layup by Trapp as time expired. The buzzer beater gave the Tigers a 26-23 lead at the break.
Trapp opened the second half by scoring Clemson’s first nine points to help the Tigers maintain a three-point lead through the first five and a half minutes. But Clemson went cold, which allowed the Scarlet Knights to gain control of the game with their 16-2 run.
Clemson did not go away, though. Simms rallied the Tigers when he produced a three-point play and then Hunter Tyson drained a three from the corner to make it a 50-45 score with 8:38 to play.
Jonathan Baehre then tipped in a Chase Hunter miss to pull the Tigers within three, 50-47, with 6:45 to go. Hunter then hit a jumper from the foul line to pull the Tigers within one point, 50-49, to complete a 10-0 run with 5:31 remaining.
Clemson finally came all the way back to tie to game after Simms and Trapp completed back-to-back three-point plays. Trapp’s three-point play tied the game, 55-55, with 4:12 to play.
However, coming out of a timeout, Baker nailed a three from the left corner to give Rutgers a 58-55 lead with 3:39 to go. Simms made a foul shot, but the Tigers final few possessions ended with nothing, causing their season to end in Indianapolis.