The Tigers advanced to the Round of 32 for the first time since 1996-97 with an impressive victory over the New Mexico State Aggies.
The Tigers defeated the WAC Champions behind superb guard play and careful ball handling. Clemson limited turnovers and made NMSU work for every basket. They finished with only 8 turnovers on the night and surrendered just one fast break basket on the night. With no easy baskets to be had, NMSU - a defense oriented squad - struggled to score against Clemson’s #9 rated defense (KenPom). The Aggies only committed 11 turnovers themselves, but many were live ball turnovers resulting in quick points for the Tigers.
Zach Lofton was great for NMSU, scoring 29 points on 9-18 scoring, but only one other Aggie - Jemerrio Jones - reached double-digits. Lofton was 4-12 from three and was active attacking the basket and drawing fouls. He went 7-8 from the stripe.
The game was tied at the 10:58 mark in the first half. Then Clemson began to take control. The Tigers went on a 10-2 run to snatch an 8-point lead which they’d never surrender. Gabe DeVoe would hit a three-pointer in the last minute of the half to extend the Tiger lead to 12 at the break, 44-32.
The Tigers were 10-0 in ACC play when Gabe scored 13+ points and he had 12 at halftime. Things were trending in the Tigers direction and it wouldn’t stop. Clemson pushed the lead to it’s largest margin of the night - 18 points - with a 10-4 spurt to open the second half.
The run was led by the Tiger guards, as was most of the scoring on the night. Mitchell led all Tigers in scoring with 23. He was 2-3 from three, 5-5 from the free throw line, and had 5 assists to 0 turnovers. It was one of the best games of his career.
Gabe DeVoe was also excellent scoring 22 on 10-15 shooting. The Tigers are a different team when he is scoring. He has a reputation for knocking down deep threes, but in this one he did most of his damage when attacking the basket going 8-10 from inside the arc.
Reed scored 15 and grabbed 5 rebounds, but also accounted for 4 of Clemson’s 8 turnovers on the night. Eli Thomas contributed 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. He avoided foul trouble and played 30 minutes. His presence in the post was a game changer against a NMSU team that lives off penetration.
Aamir Simms scored 9 points, but they were an efficient and loud 9 points. He was a perfect 4-4 from the field and slammed home a transition dunk that shook the building.
That dunk pushed the Clemson lead to 16. From there they’d salt away the remainder of the game, absorbing one late run that cut it as close as 6 (68-62) with 5:55 remaining before pulling away.
Tiger fans have a day to celebrate while the team must immediately begin preparing from #4 seed Auburn who narrowly defeated the College of Charleston earlier in the day. The game time has just been announced for 7:10 on Sunday!