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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 2 Arizona MBB set to face No. 6 Clemson in the Sweet 16

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Noor Haghighi
Kylan Boswell rushes past Stanford’s defense to shoot the ball in McKale Center on Feb. 4. The sophomore guard was named one of Jon Rothstein’s “Breakout Players” before this season began.

The No. 2 seed Arizona men’s basketball team will face No. 6 seed Clemson University in the Sweet 16 of the West Region in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 28, at 4:09 p.m. in Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California.

The Wildcats will be making their 20th appearance in the Sweet 16 and the second under Tommy Lloyd’s guidance. In their previous 19 trips to the Sweet 16, the Wildcats boast a record of 11-8.

Arizona (27-8, 15-5 Pac-12) dominated No. 15 seed Long Beach State University 85-65 in the first round on Thursday, March 21, before defeating No. 7 seed University of Dayton 78-68 in the second round on Saturday, March 23.

History vs. Clemson

Thursday’s matchup will be the fourth meeting between the Wildcats and the Tigers, with Arizona leading the head-to-head 3-0. The first meeting between the two programs was on March 18, 1989, during the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats secured a commanding 94-68 victory.

Since their first meeting, the two teams have met on two other occasions in 2011 and 2012. Arizona hosted Clemson on Dec. 10, 2011, in McKale Center, cruising past the Tigers 63-47. The following year, on Dec. 8, 2012, the Wildcats traveled to Clemson and defeated the Tigers again 66-54.

Clemson players to watch

Clemson has an all-time record of 13-13 in the NCAA Tournament, with five trips to the Sweet 16 (1980, 1990, 1997, 2018, 2024) and one trip to the Elite Eight (1980).

The Tigers are led by 14th-year head coach Brad Brownell, who commands a record of 264-188. Brownell is the winningest coach in program history, leading them to four NCAA Tournaments, two Sweet 16 appearances and 13 seasons with a winning record.

Clemson (23-11, 11-9 ACC) defeated the No. 11 seed University of New Mexico 77-56 in the first round on Friday, March 22, and then pulled off a surprise victory against No. 3 seed Baylor University 72-64 in the second round on Sunday, March 24, securing a spot in the Sweet 16 against Arizona.

PJ Hall:

PJ Hall’s contribution has been pivotal to the Tigers’ success this season. He leads the team in points, steals and blocks, maintaining averages of 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, helping him earn First-Team All-ACC honors. Hall has reached double figures in all but one game this season and has scored 20 or more points 13 times. Despite his contributions, Hall has faced challenges in staying out of foul trouble this season. He has accumulated four or more fouls in 15 games and fouled out in seven, including during Clemson’s recent win against Baylor.

Joseph Girard III:

Joseph Girard has been another fundamental piece for the Tigers. He ranks second in scoring and assists, averaging 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Furthermore, Girard has reached double figures in all but five games this season, showing consistency in his production. Additionally, Girard demonstrates incredible proficiency at the free-throw line, converting 114 out of 120 attempts this season. His 95% free-throw percentage leads the nation, making him crucial in late-game scenarios.

Chase Hunter:

Although ranking third on the team in scoring on the season, Chase Hunter has stepped up in the NCAA Tournament, playing a crucial role in Clemson’s recent success. He is helping to lead the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals, with averages of 20.5 points, six assists and two steals per game through the team’s first two matchups. After scoring 20 points only once on the season, Hunter has tallied back-to-back performances of 20 or more points, scoring a season-high 21 points against New Mexico and 20 points against Baylor.

Wildcats to watch

Caleb Love:

Love’s breakout season has been highlighted by a wave of accomplishments, including Pac-12 Player of the Year. An offensive onslaught, he leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Despite a challenging stretch towards the end of the season, where he averaged just 6.3 points and 2.3 assists over Arizona’s final three games, Love has regained his form in the NCAA Tournament. He has recorded back-to-back games with 18 or more points and five assists, including his second double-double of the season, in Arizona’s first-round matchup against Long Beach State, where he had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Keshad Johnson:

Johnson, a fifth-year senior, brings a wealth of experience to the tournament, having reached the National Championship with San Diego State University last season. Alongside Love, who appeared in the 2022 National Championship with the University of North Carolina, their combined experience in deep postseason runs will be vital for Arizona. In addition to bringing experience, Johnson has performed well on the court, averaging 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, all of which are career-highs.

Kylan Boswell:

Boswell is averaging 9.8 points and 3.7 assists per game. The sophomore guard has had a season of ups and downs, struggling with inconsistencies and shooting difficulties. In each of Arizona’s eight losses, Boswell averaged only 9.8 points and 2.3 assists per game, compared to 11.3 points and four assists in the Wildcats’ 28 wins this season. So far in the NCAA Tournament, Boswell has had two opposite performances. In Arizona’s first-round victory, Boswell scored a career-high 20 points and dished out eight assists. However, he followed up his breakout performance with a dud in the second round, scoring only 2 points and two assists. The Wildcats will need Boswell to perform at his best if they hope to continue their pursuit of a national title.


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