Clemson comeback falls short as Wichita State eliminates Tigers from NIT

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by - Staff Writer -
(Photo by Joshua A. Kelly)
(Photo by Joshua A. Kelly)

Clemson’s season ended at home in the National Invitation Tournament for the second time in three seasons after a Wichita State effort that sucked the life out of a moderately-filled lower bowl at Littlejohn Coliseum most of Sunday.

The Tigers (20-14) had their chances after falling behind by as much as 13 out of the gates but couldn't close the deal on the comeback in the 63-55 defeat.

The Shockers (21-14) came out of the half hot and extended to their largest lead early by hitting their first five shots. For every Clemson mini-run, Wichita State answered but the armor started to crack with 10 to go.

The Tigers cut the lead to four points with two Elijah Thomas free throws - but true to the Tigers' luck on the day, on the same play he picked up a flagrant foul afterward. The Shockers’ Markis McDuffie knocked down the proceeding attempts and then a three to extend the edge back to nine with 7:21 left.

Clemson’s full-court press then worked the Shockers into turnovers and brought Clemson back within two possessions with two to go. Marcquise Reed was fouled intentionally going up court on the next Tigers’ possession and he sunk two free throws to cut the lead to three points with 1:20 left.

After Clemson couldn’t convert on the extra possession afforded from the intentional call, Wichita State took it down to the shot-clock buzzer and senior guard Samaje Haynes-Jones sunk a 3-pointer to go up six. A Reed shot blocked on an ensuing drive to the hoop effectively sealed it from there.

"We tried hard today but we just didn't have it," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "We looked a little slow. We looked a little tired. We were probably a man or two short. We just don't have quite enough juice to keep a game going. You hate it for them because you know they're trying and when you get kids who work like that and represent your university well - there's a lot of bad things happening in college basketball and these guys have been terrific.

"The season didn't end the way we wanted it to but I couldn't have been more proud to have coached them."

The Tigers hit only 2-of-14 3-point attempts on the game with Reed leading all scorers with 18. No other Tigers joined him in double-figures in a second game without the services of senior Shelton Mitchell (knee).

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall credited freshman guard Dexter Dennis' defense for some of those shooting woes.

"His length was tremendous. He played 38 minutes because I could only take him out when Marcquise Reed was out," said Marshall, who coached his first game in Littlejohn since 2002 with Winthrop. "He was dynamite with his positioning. His length bothered Reed on pull-ups. He blocked several shots at the rim...I love Reed's game. For people in Kansas, he reminds me of (Kansas State guard) Barry Brown how he gets to the midrange and can score. But tonight because of Dexter's length and the way we were defending the ball-screen - our bigs were really committed to the ball. It was difficult for him and I'm sure he missed some shots he normally makes. When you watch him on film, he's just dynamite. Nobody scores 19 points a game in the ACC and is not a very, very, very fine player.

"I thought our guys did a really good job on Elijah Thomas. When that kid goes 2-for-8 and Marcquise Reed goes 5-for-20 - you got to give (assistant) coach Isaac Brown credit for that gameplan."

The Tigers shot 34.8 percent for the game and 23.3 percent and 1-of-9 from three in the second half.

Clemson didn’t hold a first-half lead, trailing by as much as eight points. The Tigers didn’t get much for help there from behind the extended 3-point line in the experimental NIT rules with one make in five attempts.

Reed topped the 2,000-career-point milestone early in the first half with the Tigers’ first five points and led Clemson with nine points there as the Shockers held a 29-24 edge at the break. Wichita State’s Jaime Echenique helped keep Tiger rallies at bay with two of their five 3-point makes in the period - and 10 points in the session overall. Echenique finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

The NIT opener Tuesday aided a fourth Clemson season reaching 20 wins in addition to a fifth postseason appearance (three NITs, two NCAAs) in Brownell’s ninth season with the program. The season was marked by close losses with seven defeats in 10 games decided by five points or less.

"Every little possession matters," Shelton Mitchell said postgame. "We had about seven possessions that didn't go our way and that affected a lot of things. Overall you can't just look at the negatives and learned a lot of positive things too."

"This year didn't go the way we wanted it to. To play huge parts in two seasons and win 20 games in (back-to-back) seasons - I don't know how many times that has happened in school history (Editor's note: a second run of consecutive 20 win seasons since 1985-86; also won 20+ 2006-10). And to have a (Sweet 16) banner we did a lot for - that's huge. It doesn't feel great right now but it doesn't take back the great times we have had and what we've done."

Wichita State moves on to a meeting with Indiana on Tuesday for the right for a spot in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The win was a 13th in the last 16 games for Marshall's team.




Notes (via Clemson athletics): Marcquise Reed notched his 71st double-digit scoring game – tying him for 15th all-time with Butch Zatezalo (1967-70) … Reed finishes with 1,484 career points at Clemson and stands 12th all-time in Clemson history … for his career, Reed owns 2,013 points … Reed finishes the season with 602 points – the seventh-most in program history and the seventh 600-point scorer in Tiger history … Reed tallied three steals and finishes his career with 170 – ninth all-time … his 66 steals this season are tied for the sixth-most in program history with Cliff Hammonds (2007-08) … his 1.72 steals per game in his career ranks third all-time at Clemson … his 2018-19 season average of 2.13 steals per contest is tied for fifth all-time with Vernon Hamilton (2004-05) … Reed finishes as the program’s all-time free throw shooter (85.9 percent) … Reed’s career scoring average of 15.0 per game ranks ninth all-time at Clemson, while his 2018-19 season average of 19.4 is 10th in program history … Elijah Thomas finishes his Clemson career with 993 points, 649 rebounds and 181 blocks … his 649 rebounds is tied for 18th all-time with Tommy Mahaffey (1959-62) … his 181 blocks is eighth-best in program history … Thomas’ 1.95 career blocks per game is fourth all-time at Clemson … Thomas’ career field goal percentage of 58.5 percent is seventh-best in Clemson history … Thomas’ three steals against Wichita State tied a career high … Aamir Simms tied a career-high with four offensive rebounds … John Newman III tied a season-high with two steals.


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dixiedon
spacer Falters late?
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spacer More like falters early , loses late ... the story of
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spacer Our offense has been a quagmire Brad's entire
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spacer May Jesus Christ help us all.***
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spacer We should have been in the NCAA Tournament!
Clemson_Orange
spacer Fouls on offense, traveling, terrible shots...
nkickha
spacer 7 years ago would have been my change***
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spacer Watched some of this from the cardio machines at the gym.
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spacer So Clemson was the higher seed, was playing at home, and
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