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Clemson stuns Arizona, survives second-half surge to reach Elite 8

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Making clutch baskets is a must to win a national championship, and that’s exactly what the No. 6 Clemson Tigers did in their Sweet 16 matchup against the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday. evening.

The Tigers saw the Wildcats fight back and take the lead late in the second half, but they held off a late surge to advance to the NCAA tournament with a 77-72 victory.

Clemson entered the second half with a 39-31 lead, but a Caleb Love and-one for Arizona with 16:33 left tied the game at 43.

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Chase Hunter dribbles

Chase Hunter (1) of the Clemson Tigers drives against Jaden Bradley (0) of the Arizona Wildcats during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament at Crypto.com Arena on March 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Harry Comment/Getty Images)

But the Tigers didn’t let the momentum shake them. They continued to make shots, especially in the final sequence, to win the game.

The lead was 68-63 with 2:23 left when the two teams began trading baskets. PJ Hall’s free throws gave Clemson a five-point lead, but Oumar Ballo made a layup to make it a three-point game.

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With 1:05 left, Clemson knew it had to make Arizona miss and knock down free throws. But Arizona’s Jaden Bradley made a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 52 seconds left.

All the momentum was on the Wildcats bench. But after a timeout, Chase Hunter had the biggest bucket of the night, hitting a layup while being fouled for an and-one.

Ian Schieffelin dribbling

Ian Schieffelin (4) of the Clemson Tigers drives against KJ Lewis (5) of the Arizona Wildcats during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament at Crypto.com Arena on March 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Harry Comment/Getty Images)

He made the free throw to make it a five-point game again. Love hit a quick jumper for Arizona to keep its chances alive with 16 seconds left, but Dillon Hunter made a layup five seconds later.

Three of Clemson’s five starters scored in double figures. Chase Hunter led the way with 18 points and Hall had 17.

For Arizona, it was an incredibly poor shooting performance from Love, who went 0-of-9 from beyond the arc and 5-of-18 overall. He finished with 13 points. Ballo was 7 of 10 from the field for a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds.

PJ Hall dunks

PJ Hall of the Clemson Tigers dunks against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half of the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament at Crypto.com Arena on March 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Harry Comment/Getty Images)

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Clemson awaits the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and No. 4 Alabama.

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