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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 2 Arizona MBB suffers devastating 77-72 loss to No. 6 Clemson in the Sweet 16

Emma Diaz
Pelle Larsson (#3) takes a fall and teammate Oumar Ballo (#11) helps him up during the University of Arizona vs. Oregon game on March 2 in McKale Center. UA men’s basketball has been averaging 89.9 points per game.

The No. 2 seed Arizona men’s basketball team (27-9, 15-5 Pac-12) returned to Los Angeles, California, for the Sweet 16 to take on No. 6 seed Clemson University on Thursday, March 28, in Arena. Unfortunately, the Wildcats fell to the Tigers, 77-72, and Arizona fell short of advancing to the Elite Eight while the Tigers will be making their first appearance since 1980.

During the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Arizona faced No. 15 seed California State University, Long Beach, beating them 85-65 on March 21. The Wildcats then advanced to the second round, collecting a commanding 78-68 victory over No. 7 seed University of Dayton on March 23, claiming a spot in the Sweet 16 to face Clemson. 

First half

Clemson’s Chase Hunter claimed the first basket of the night and Ian Schieffelin scored a jumper shortly after, giving the Tigers a 4-0 start 3 minutes into the first half. Clemson’s defense was relentless early on, challenging Arizona, and Kylan Boswell made the Wildcats’ first basket with a 3-pointer. Hunter then scored on a layup, putting the Tigers up 6-3. Arizona was off to a slow start, missing its first six field goal attempts. Clemson continued to find its way offensively as Chauncey Wiggins drained a 3-pointer, followed by a shot by RJ Godfrey, extending the Tigers’ lead to 10 points. Coming out of a timeout, Oumar Ballo made a layup to trim the lead to less than double digits. The Wildcats’ frustrating start didn’t stop them from making plays, as a KJ Lewis dunk scored Arizona’s 10th point of the game

Caleb Love scored his first points of the game with a layup, making the score 24-14. However, Wiggins’ second 3-pointer of the night put the Tigers back up 13 points with 7 minutes remaining in the first half. Keshad Johnson made a dunk off a fast break, pulling Arizona closer and forcing a Clemson timeout. Lewis hit a key 3-pointer late in the first half, leading to a dunk by Ballo, bringing down the 35-29 deficit. 

Ballo led the Wildcats in the first half with 6 points and eight rebounds, while Schieffelin scored 9 points and three rebounds for the Tigers. Clemson’s defense held Arizona to 40.9% field goal shooting and only 2-11 on 3-point attempts in the first half, compared to the Tigers’ 53.3% field goal shooting and five turnovers. 

Second half

Johnson opened the second half with a two-handed dunk as shots were traded back and forth. The Wildcats proceeded to go on an 8-0 run, tapping into an offensive rhythm and tying the game at 43 with a layup by Love. Love then proceeded to convert a free throw, giving Arizona its first lead of the night. Clemson came up with an answer as Jack Clark proceeded to make a 3-pointer to reclaim the 48-46 lead. The two programs exchanged free throws back and forth and Jaden Bradley tied the game at 56. After the Tigers used a 9-2 scoring run to push the lead to 7 points, Bradley hit a 3-pointer to bring Arizona closer, and the Wildcats trailed 65-61 with under 5 minutes remaining in the second half. Bradley continued to show his tenacity as Arizona came within 2 points after he made another 3-pointer, making it a one-possession game with under one minute remaining in the Sweet 16 matchup. The Tigers responded with an and-one layup made by Hunter. His brother, Dillon Hunter, secured the 77-72 victory over Arizona with a layup of his own, and his first points of the game, to advance Clemson to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1980.

Bradley came off the bench and led Arizona with 18 points, three assists and four rebounds, while Ballo followed closely with a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Love added 13 points but went 0-9 when shooting from the 3-point line. Chase Hunter led Clemson with 18 points, five assists and seven rebounds, and PJ Hall put up 17 points and eight rebounds. Head coach Tommy Lloyd was asked to reflect on this year and what comes to mind:

“I love these guys. I love the culture we’re starting to really build upon at Arizona. I feel like I’m really big on eventually getting some compound return on our investment and I think we’re gonna get that,” Lloyd said. “ Obviously, we’re not perfect and no one is, and we don’t ever want to be perfect, we just want to be making progress […]. I wasn’t ready to take a breath, but I’m going to take a breath, and then we’ll re-evaluate and we’re going to have another really good off-season and continue to build.”

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