Clemson Men's Basketball makes the Elite Eight for the first time in 44 seasons

Brad Brownell's squad has advanced to the national quarterfinals for the first time since Bill Foster's 1979-80 team featuring Larry Nance.

Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Chase Hunter (1)
Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Chase Hunter (1) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Men’s Basketball defied the odds again in the NCAA Tournament, this time defeating the 2-seed in the West Region, the Arizona Wildcats, 77-72 on Thursday evening in Los Angeles, California.

The Tigers led most of the game, building a 13-point lead in the first half. The Wildcats cut that lead to 8 points at halftime and quickly erased most of it in the second half. Clemson never allowed the potent Arizona offense to take control, however.

The Wildcats led briefly before Clemson regained the upper hand and pushed the lead back to 7 points. The Tigers, led by the red-hot Chase Hunter, made clutch buckets to keep Arizona at arm’s length until the final whistle.

Hunter led the team in scoring with 18 points, followed closely by PJ Hall with 17 points and Ian Schieffelin with 14 points. That trio also led the team in rebounds: Hall with 8, Hunter and Schieffelin with 7 each.

The Tiger bench made their mark as well, with both RJ Godfrey (7 points) and Chauncey Wiggins (8 points) making key contributions, especially in the second half.

Clemson’s defense was remarkable, limiting the Wildcats’ ability to score with field goals. At one point, almost all of Arizona’s points were coming from free throws.

It has been almost half a century between trips to the Elite Eight for Clemson Men's Basketball

This is Clemson’s second trip to the Elite Eight in program history. The first time was in the 1979-80 season under head coach Bill Foster. The tournament had 48 teams at that point, but Clemson was not blessed with a bye.

The Tigers defeated Utah State and BYU (both games in Ogden, Utah) to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They then beat Lamar to reach the Elite Eight against UCLA. The Bruins would win to go to the Final Four and would be the ultimate runners-up to champions Louisville.

That Tigers team was led by senior guard Billy Williams and junior Larry Nance, who would go on to a 13-year career in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It also featured sophomore Mitchell Wiggins, who eventually played in the NBA and overseas following a transfer to Florida State.

Clemson’s next opponent will be the Alabama Crimson Tide, who defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 89-87. The two squads faced off in November in Tuscaloosa. Clemson won on the road 85-77 over the then-ranked Crimson Tide.

The game will tip off at 8:49 PM on Saturday on TBS.