CLEMSON, S.C. — Knocking off a team ranked in the top 5 of both polls for the second time on the season, the Clemson University men’s basketball team upset No. 5 Louisville at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday. The Tigers put together a dominant defensive performance and led for the vast majority of contest en route to collecting an emphatic 77-62 victory over the Cardinals.
Shooting 51 percent from the floor, Clemson (13-12, 7-8) was quite efficient on the day. The Tigers also netted nine 3-pointers and made 18-of-23 free throws. Louisville (21-5, 12-3) finished with a shooting percentage of 34.8 and connected on six treys to go along with its 39 rebounds. The Tigers, who pulled down 34 rebounds, amassed 16 points off turnovers and recorded 22 points in the paint. Furthermore, Clemson boasted a lead for 38:40 of action.
John Newman III manned the charge for the Tigers with a career-high 23 points. Newman made the most of his offensive opportunities, going 7-for-9 on field goal attempts and a perfect 7-for-7 on free throw attempts. The seven free throws marked a new career high for Newman, who also hauled in six rebounds. Tevin Mack went 6-for-9 from the field and attained five boards. With 14 points in the contest, Mack surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. He has produced 50 double-digit scoring performances in his career. Aamir Simms registered 13 points, six assists and four rebounds, and Clyde Trapp notched 10 points and nine boards. Louisville’s Dwayne Sutton finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Clemson raced out to a commanding lead, going up 18-5 just under seven minutes into the game after stringing together a 14-0 run. Louisville was held scoreless for 6:36 during that stretch. Limiting the Cardinals to 15.6 percent shooting in the first half, the Tigers boasted a sizable 31-14 advantage at halftime. Newman sparked Clemson with 11 points through 20 minutes of play, driving to the hoop for several hard-fought baskets.
Louisville did not score over the course of the final 3:14 of the first half and went on trail by double digits for the entire second half. Thanks to a 10-0 run, the Cardinals were able to pull within 11 with 11:02 remaining. Soon afterward, Simms and Newman built Clemson’s lead back up to 18 via 3-balls on back-to-back Tiger possessions. Clemson led by as many as 21 points, and Newman put a bow on the win with a thunderous breakaway dunk off an inbound pass with 1:24 left in the game. Once the final buzzer sounded, Clemson students celebrated the 77-62 upset victory by rushing the court.
Following a weeklong layoff, Clemson will return to action at Conte Forum against Boston College (12-13, 6-8) on Saturday, Feb. 22. The matchup in Chestnut Hill, Mass., between the Eagles and the Tigers is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. and air on ACC Network.
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Clemson Head Coach Brad BrownellOn the atmosphere and play
“This place was outstanding. I think you could tell from the beginning, our guys played with incredible energy, and our play was off the charts. Guys were exhausted at the first media timeout. There was so much adrenaline and juice. Our cuts were so hard and so fast. We smashed them early in terms of backing them up. Defensively in the first 20 minutes, that was as good as we could have played. I thought we competed our tails off. We won most loose balls and fought hard on the glass. Then, for the most part, the defense was good in the second half. Obviously at the end we had a hard time. We tried about three different things in the end and none of them worked.”
On not giving up a lot of threes
“That is what happens when they have a hard driver and three shooters out there. It is hard to guard it all and give up twos to hold them off.”
On success from different players
“If we can get four guys in double-figures, then we are going to have a chance to beat anybody in this league. I thought we played great today. This was a lot of fun to watch. Our team played at a high level in front of a sellout crowd. We want all the people to come enjoy themselves, and we want the guys to be rewarded.”
On playing on the road
“There was an energizing crowd. It is demoralizing when you are on the road and you are struggling. We felt that same thing at Louisville. When you get behind, the basket gets small. Not having anything go your way results in taking jump shots, and that is what happened to them today.”
On doing anything different this time
“I think we were a tad more aggressive. We tried to extend them just a little bit. We did not want to extend them too much because that would leave us 1-on-1, which is hard on Aamir. We do not have the depth to be as aggressive beyond half-court.”
On not turning the ball over
“That was huge. Our guys were going out and getting steals to get our transition game going. All of a sudde, we lose Nwora, and then they run a couple of plays for him. I felt like we never let him get any rhythm. For the most part, our guys had great awareness, great attention to detail and prep, and we competed as best we could.”
On Clemson’s record when Aamir has 5 assists
“That is when we are at our best; there is no question. When we are playing off Aamir’s decision-making, whether it is cutting off him or playing off him in the post, or at the top of the key doing different things. He is our point forward. When he is playing at a high level, it puts pressure on other teams because that is one advantage we have over other teams.”
On team finally playing as healthy as they have all season
“Alex Hemenway has had a big impact on this team. He had 8 points in 16 minutes, which has given us an added thrust of scoring. He and Curran, we need those guys. When Alex scores, it adds more pressure on the defense. It opens things up for John and Aamir. It stretches things which allows our guys to have more space to play.”
John Newman III
On the victory:
“We played a great game. I think we played “a full 40.” We always say “full 40.” We played the whole game. I think that’s what we did today. We had some slip-ups, where we let [Louisville] get back into the game, but we did a really good job of refocusing ourselves and staying the course. We know teams can put together runs, but we just stayed focused the whole game, so shout out to my team.”
On Clemson’s approach to the game:
“My teammates and people who know me tell me to stay aggressive because, sometimes, I can be passive. But my team and my coaches believe in me, so they keep preaching to me to stay aggressive, and I appreciate them for that. Sometimes, they believe in me more than I believe in myself, and that keeps me going. I see what happens when I’m aggressive, and it helps our whole team, so I’m going to keep that going.”
On the final moments of the game:
“For me, it was a surreal moment. We did it again, just like when we beat Duke at home. It was just a surreal moment, and to see all the fans come out there and celebrate with us is something I won’t forget.”
On Clemson’s two-game winning streak:
“As a team, we’ve had the motto all season long: “The past is the past. You just have to work on right now.” And that’s what we did with Pitt, even though we know we previously lost the last three. Going into Pitt, we just wanted to focus on that game and take it each game at a time. Going into today, it was the same thing. Pitt happened, and that was good for us. But, at the same time, we’re going to keep moving and just focus on what’s happening right now. And that just happened to be Louisville, and we came in and took care of business.”
On the Tigers’ outlook moving forward:
“We know that we have to finish the season on a strong note. We can’t let our past affect our future. We just have to keep worrying about the next game. I think we have Boston College next, so we’re going to probably take a few days, collect ourselves, reboot, recharge and start getting ready to prepare for Boston College on the road. Just keep the train rolling.”
On Clemson’s defensive intensity:
“That’s definitely the emphasis going into every game, so we try to focus on that on the court. Coach [Brownell] does a great job of preparing us, and we’ve been locked in on scouting reports and all of the meetings so that we can translate that to the games. Then, it kind of takes care of itself.”
Louisville Head Coach Chris Mack
“I want to give credit to Clemson. I thought that their team played their tails off. I thought that they were absolutely ready to go from the very beginning and all the way through the game. Their kids played with a lot of spirit. They made shots at a high level. They played well together and built off that last win they had at Pitt. Our team isn’t playing well. This team started out flat and had to play uphill the rest of the way. The teams we’re playing are too together, and we’re not right now.”
On Clemson’s performance:
“I think [Clemson] played really hard on the defensive end. I think they always have. Brad’s teams can really, really guard, and they keep the floor extremely tight. They’re well-prepared when it comes to the scouting report. They’ve mixed up the zone these past few games and done a really good job. Their physicality was a lot different today than when we played them the last time, and that’s a thing that I’ve always come to expect when playing Clemson.”
On how Louisville responded midway through the second half:
“Not well enough. Did we have a response? Yeah, we showed a little bit of a pulse. Again, you get down 20 points on someone else’s home floor, with Clemson playing with the confidence that they were, that’s not good enough. You can’t put yourself in that big of a hole.”