MARCH MADNESS IN MEMPHIS: Clemson Upsets Baylor in a Thrilling NCAA Second Round Match

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Baylor battled Clemson into the final minutes, but Clemson came out on top in the NCAA Regionals at FedExForum on March. 24. (Photo: William Weeks/Tri-State Defender)

The drama of the NCAA tournament intensified during the second session of the second round, with the Clemson Tigers clashing with the Baylor Bears, and ultimately getting the win, 72-64.

The matchup, filled with first-half drama, surpassed the excitement of the first four games of Round 1 combined, as both teams aimed for a coveted spot in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

With the win, Clemson advances to the Sweet 16, where they will face the Arizona Wildcats. (Photo: William Weeks/Tri-State Defender)

From the onset, Clemson was determined to make a statement against Baylor. The Tigers exhibited exceptional shooting skills, boasting a 52 percent success rate in the first half and maintaining the lead for the majority of the time. Chase Hunter’s three-pointer at the buzzer capped off a strong first half for Clemson, leading 35-25. Hunter contributed 11 points in the half, with the team hitting 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.

Conversely, Baylor, known for its three-point shooting prowess, struggled to find its rhythm, making only 3 of 9 three-point attempts and shooting 33 percent overall in the first half. Ja’Kobe Walter led the Bears with 10 points before halftime.

Clemson seemed to be cruising in the second half, holding a 61-51 lead with just over five minutes remaining. However, an 11-3 run by Baylor narrowed the gap to 64-62 with 2:11 left on the clock. With the game hanging in the balance, Walters missed two crucial free throws with 36 seconds remaining, allowing Clemson to secure the win with Jalen Bridges’ free throws in the final seconds.

Clemson (23-11) saw significant contributions from its starters, with Hunter finishing the game with 20 points. Joseph Girard III added 13 points, while PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin each tallied 11.

Clemson’s head coach Brad Bromwell expressed his affection for his team, highlighting the players’ character and the strong culture within the program. “I just love this team. They’re really good players but they’re better people,” Bromwell remarked, emphasizing the difficulty of concluding the season.

Despite a better shooting performance in the second half, Baylor (24-11) struggled overall, shooting just 39 percent for the game. Ray J Dennis led the Bears with 27 points, followed by Walter with 20 points and Bridges with 10.

Reflecting on the season’s end, Baylor’s head coach Scott Drew shared his pride and gratitude for his team’s representation of Baylor basketball and the community.

Walter, addressing his missed free throws, acknowledged the disappointment but praised his team’s unity and resilience throughout the season.

Looking ahead, Clemson is set to face the Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen of the Western Region in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 28, as they continue their remarkable journey in the NCAA tournament.