Wichita State held Clemson to a paltry 15-53 (.283) from the floor in a dominant defensive-led victory over the #2 seeded Tigers. The Tigers scored just 24 points in the first half and made just one three-pointer in each half. 23 of the Tigers 55 points came from the free throw line.
Clemson’s offense has sorely missed the healthy 2017-18 version of Shelton Mitchell throughout the season, but with him on the bench due to knee discomfort for this game, the Tigers clearly could have used the banged up 2018-19 version to run the offense. They were woefully stagnant. No player finished with more than one assist. His replacement, Clyde Trapp, finished 1-8 from the floor.
Marquise Reed was 0-5 from three in what was a sub-par day, but still managed to lead the Tigers by virtue of going 8-10 from the FT line. He finished 5-20 from the field. Eli Thomas finished 2-8 while picking up four personal fouls and a technical foul.
The first half was very sloppy and low tempo. The Tigers managed just 24 points, but only trailed by five. The second half started poorly though as the Shockers went on a 9-1 run to build a 38-25 lead. Helping to spur that run were two offensive fouls by Eli Thomas. The first occurred on the first possession of the half. The second was particularly silly as he moved a defenders arm away as they were jockeying for position in the post. He quickly went to the bench with three fouls.
After the run, the Tigers spent the remainder of the game trying to claw back. They had several chances. With just under nine minutes remaining, Eli Thomas drew a foul and was headed to the line for a chance to cut the lead to just four points, but he shoved the Shockers player that fouled him after the play was over. It earned him a technical foul. Wichita State knocked down both ensuing FTs and the lead held firm at six points.
With 1:20 left, Eli Thomas poked the ball lose at the top of the key. Marquise Reed grabbed it and headed down the court on a fast break and was fouled. Because the defender grabbed his waist and didn’t make a play at the ball, it was a flagrant 1 foul (in the NBA it would be called a “clear path foul”). Reed made both free throws to trim it to a 58-55 deficit. The Tigers got the ball back with the foul being a flagrant rather than a personal and got a great post-up with Eli Thomas, but he missed a lay-up. Samajae Haynes-Jones knocked down a three-pointer on the Shockers next possession to push the lead back to six with under a minute to go and they held on from there.
It was a disappointing end to a season that certainly underwhelmed. We said in our season preview that this “absolutely” was a NCAA tournament team, yet here were are losing to a #6 seed in the NIT at home. There will be plenty of post-mortem discussion to come, but for now, it is a potentially mercifully ending for what has been a painfully frustrating season for all.