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Clemson, Cougars await NCAA fate; USC finds out if season continues

From staff and wire reports
Posted 3/11/18

The Clemson Tigers know they are in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. They just need to find out all of the specifics.

The South Carolina Gamecocks are hoping they are in the National Invitation Tournament. They will find out this evening if …

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MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Clemson, Cougars await NCAA fate; USC finds out if season continues

Posted

The Clemson Tigers know they are in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. They just need to find out all of the specifics.

The South Carolina Gamecocks are hoping they are in the National Invitation Tournament. They will find out this evening if they are in or if their season is over, just a couple of hours after Clemson finds out the particulars of its first NCAA trip since 2011.

The Tigers, along with Colonial Athletic Association champion College of Charleston, are the two Palmetto State teams who will find out today what they are seeded, where they will be playing and, most importantly, who they will be playing in the 68-team tournament.

The NCAA tournament selection show begins at 6 p.m. on TBS. The NIT selection show will be televised on ESPNU beginning at 8:30 p.m. That's when USC will find out if its 17-16 season will be extended.

Carolina lost to Arkansas in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday. It has failed to make the NCAAs a year after making a magical run to the Final Four.

On Friday, No. 19 Clemson lost to top-ranked Virginia 65-58 in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

The Tigers were the No. 4 seed in the tournament and are 23-9 as they await their NCAA fate.

Shelton Mitchell had 18 points and Elijah Thomas added 15 for Clemson, which remains the lone original member of the ACC that hasn't won the conference tournament. Clemson was trying to reach the finals for only the third time.

Tigers leading scorer Marcquise Reed, averaging better than 16 points, was held to six on 2-for-14 shooting. He missed nine of 10 tries from 3-point range against the most suffocating defense in the country.

"They're just so big, long, athletic, and there's a lot of them, so they keep rotating guys," Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. "They don't ever back off. They play like this every day."

Kyle Guy scored 15 points to help the 30-2 Cavaliers hold off Clemson. UVa got several crucial contributions from role player Jack Salt down the stretch.

"This is a complete group. Their unity is as good as any as I've ever coached," Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. "They're relentless the way they play, and that's the way we have to play to be good."

Virginia used a quick 10-0 run to build a 14-point lead with 13 minutes remaining and then slowed the game down, but Clemson cut the deficit to five with 7:22 left. That's when Salt, a 6-foot-10-inch junior center from New Zealand who was averaging 3.4 points and 4.1 rebounds, started coming up really big.

"He's just all heart, and he'll do whatever you ask," Bennett said. "But I think we have a team full of guys like that."

After tossing in a baby hook with 8:25 to go, Salt grabbed an offensive rebound, scored on a turnaround bank shot in the post and followed with another bucket inside at the five-minute mark.

Salt wasn't done. He pulled down an important defensive rebound, had a tip-in with 2:02 left to make it 59-51 and then saved a long pass from going out of bounds.

Salt scored all eight of his points and snatched six of his game-high eight rebounds after halftime. Virginia fans chanted his name and gave him a standing ovation when he went to the bench.

"They were probably just surprised I was scoring so much," Salt said. "It was a bit ugly at the end, but it was good to get it."

Clemson got within four with 13.4 seconds left, but Devon Hall hit two free throws and Reed missed two shots at the other end as Virginia closed it out.

Clemson was picked in the preseason to finish 13th in the ACC. Instead, the Tigers set a program record with 11 regular-season wins in ACC play and then won their tournament opener 90-82 over Boston College to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011.

They haven't been able to solve Virginia, though. Clemson shot 35 percent from the field, including 5-for- 25 on 3s. Still, it was a better showing than that 61-36 loss at Virginia on Jan. 23, when the Tigers shot 32 percent and managed only 13 points in the second half.

That game came three days after senior forward Donte Grantham, who averaged 14 points, went down with a season-ending knee injury against Notre Dame.

"I do feel confident with our team," Brownell said. "I think we're playing pretty good basketball. I thought we got better this weekend."

College of Charleston is 26-7 and in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. The Cougars beat Northeastern 83-76 in overtime in the CAA tournament championship game at North Charleston Coliseum on Tuesday.