INDIANAPOLIS — In a thrilling battle that came down to the wire, No. 7 seed Clemson fell to No. 10 seed Rutgers, 60-56, in the NCAA Tournament First Round on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Scarlet Knights (16-11) hit a layup with 10 seconds to play to put the game out of reach after Clemson (16-8) erased an 11-point second-half deficit. Clemson’s season came to a close in its 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Aamir Simms led the Tigers in the Midwest Regional matchup with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes, as the decorated senior’s career ended in style. Clyde Trapp posted 14 points, going 5-for-6 from the field in his final game in a Clemson uniform.
In the shooting department, Clemson made 35.6 percent of its field goal attempts, and Rutgers shot 39.7 percent from the floor. The Tigers connected on six 3-point attempts, while Rutgers netted eight 3-pointers. Clemson went 8-for-9 at the free throw line, pulled down 32 rebounds and also tabbed six steals in the process of forcing 14 turnovers. Additionally, the Tigers amassed 26 points in the paint, 14 fast break points and 14 assists.
Simms, who totaled eight double-doubles in his Clemson tenure, made 5-of-6 free throw attempts and was credited with three assists on the night. He finished the season as Clemson’s scoring, rebounding and assists leader for the second straight season. Trapp went 3-for-3 at the foul line and finished as the game’s second-leading scorer behind Simms. Hunter Tyson scored 10 points and nabbed two steals, and Al-Amir Dawes registered eight points and three assists. For Rutgers, Geo Baker, Caleb McConnell and Jacob Young led the Scarlet Knights in scoring with 13 points apiece.
Dawes scored Clemson’s first basket via a 3-pointer that tied Rutgers at 3-3. Soon afterward, Simms knocked down a hook shot to put the Tigers up 7-5. A trey from Alex Hemenway out of the fast break increased Clemson’s advantage to 10-7. Hemenway proceeded to record a steal, which set the stage for an emphatic dunk by Tyson. Another fast break triple, this time by Tyson, gave the Tigers a 15-13 edge just under midway through the first half. A nice pass from Simms facilitated a game-tying Dawes layup at the 4:43 mark. Jonathan Baehre corralled an offensive rebound with a little over two minutes remaining in the half, and the second-chance opportunity resulted in a pull-up three by Dawes.
The Tigers closed out the opening half in exciting fashion, with Trapp grabbing a defensive board and racing the length of the floor for a buzzer-beating layup. Clemson entered the break sporting a 26-23 lead. Early in the second half, a superb bounce pass by Simms enabled Trapp to thrown down an impressive slam, providing Clemson with a 30-26 lead. Later on, Trapp poured in a trey that made the score 33-29 in favor of the Tigers. The Scarlet Knights went on a second-half run en route to going up 50-39. However, Rutgers was then held scoreless for over four minutes while Clemson trimmed its deficit to one. During the Tigers’ 10-0 surge, Aamir Simms came up with a 3-point play and Baehre elevated for a putback layup. The score was tied 55-55 at the final media timeout, but Clemson never took the lead late in the action, as Rutgers pulled out a 60-56 victory.
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Head Coach Brad Brownell’s Postgame Quotes
Opening statement:“Congratulations to Rutgers. That was NCAA Tournament basketball. Their kids played really hard, and I thought our guys did as well. Both teams were very physical and aggressive defensively. The defense was better than the offense for both teams. Rutgers had a couple of balls that seemed to fall their way, and, in a game like this, where there’s some ebbs and flows, the easy baskets often make the difference. Give the Rutgers kids credit. They got a couple more easy baskets than we did, and I thought that was the difference.”
On his takeaways from the game:“Young players having the opportunity to play in games like this is always great. It wasn’t your typical NCAA Tournament atmosphere, with all of the usual pomp and circumstance, but it was a big stage and was big-time basketball. You could feel how competitive it was. It should serve as motivation not only to play in games like this but to play well in them and advance. We’re very grateful for our three senior players, who have had outstanding careers.”
On Clyde Trapp’s performance:“I thought Clyde was going to play well. He’s practiced very well lately. He felt great all week. Going into the game, I thought he had a lot of confidence. He played very well tonight. He played with a lot of swagger, aggressiveness and assertiveness and made some big shots to keep us in the game. When we got down, our seniors wouldn’t let us cave in, and Clyde was a big part of that.”
Tigers tie up the game 😤@ClemsonMBB | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/HKHcDqJkWy— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2021
Tigers tie up the game 😤@ClemsonMBB | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/HKHcDqJkWy
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2021
Clyde Trapp got UP 😯@ClemsonMBB | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/wMz5hzR6xV— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2021
Clyde Trapp got UP 😯@ClemsonMBB | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/wMz5hzR6xV
𝗕𝗶𝗴 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗴𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀 😤@h_tyson5 x #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/VZOxiBowb5— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) March 20, 2021
𝗕𝗶𝗴 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗯𝗶𝗴 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗴𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀 😤@h_tyson5 x #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/VZOxiBowb5
— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) March 20, 2021
Nothing better 🧡💜 https://t.co/7rc9JVWYMp— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) March 20, 2021
Nothing better 🧡💜 https://t.co/7rc9JVWYMp
Proud of our guys for fighting until the very end. Thank you for the support all season long #ClemsonGRIT 🧡💜 pic.twitter.com/sNsUt1lr5o— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) March 20, 2021
Proud of our guys for fighting until the very end. Thank you for the support all season long #ClemsonGRIT 🧡💜 pic.twitter.com/sNsUt1lr5o