Grant leads Tigers to first NCAA tournament victory in 14 years


by - Senior Writer -
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DAYTON, OH – A tired but happy group of Tigers are headed to Tampa.

Senior Jerai Grant scored a career-high 22 points and Clemson grabbed an early lead - building a double-figure lead in the game’s opening minutes - in beating Alabama-Birmingham 70-52 on Tuesday night in an NCAA tournament "First Four" game at the University of Dayton Arena.

The 18-point victory was the largest-ever for Clemson in an NCAA tournament game.

The 12th-seeded Tigers (22-11) went on a 21-2 run in the first half and never let the big lead slip away, as they had in several recent games. The Tigers will celebrate the school’s first NCAA tournament victory in 14 years by catching a flight to a second-round game against fifth-seeded West Virginia (20-11) on Thursday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

Milton Jennings added 11 points and Tanner Smith and Devin Booker each had 10 for Clemson as the Tigers outscored UAB 40-12 in the paint.

“I thought our attention to detail was pretty good,” first-year head coach Brad Brownell said. “We had good energy early, knocked some balls loose and got a nice lead. They bounced back, made some nice 3-pointers, but we did a good job of keeping them at bay. We didn’t give them much hope. I thought the gameplan of getting the ball inside had a big effect. Jerai had a big game. I thought most of our guys played pretty well. I am excited about moving on.”

Jamarr Sanders had 19 and Dexter Fields 12 for UAB, regular-season champions of Conference USA.

Clemson took a 39-27 halftime lead, and never let the Blazers draw closer than eight points in the second half.

The Tigers came out looking like a team that deserved to be in the tournament. Grant, who had opened the scoring, rebounded his own miss and hit the follow with 6:34 left to give Clemson a 31-11 lead.


The Blazers didn't have a field goal for almost 8 1/2 minutes of the opening half and had more turnovers (eight) than points (seven) in the opening 10:30.

But UAB regrouped behind its 3-point shooters. Hitting 7-of-15 behind the arc for the half, it got back in the game. Fields hit two 3-pointers and Johnson added one in a 16-4 run to cut the lead to 35-27.

However, Clemson was able to maintain a comfortable working margin in the second half, a nice change of pace for the Tigers, who are just 1-6 in games decided by five or fewer points.

Clemson ran its NCAA record to 9-10. The win was its first since the 1997 team advanced to the round of 16.

Now the Tigers have to figure out how to get enough rest before tipping off against West Virginia at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday in the St. Pete Times Forum.

“I think rest will be a big factor for us,” Grant said. “We just need to prepare and watch the video on West Virginia, and watch them go through their sets. We should be fine. We can't take anything for granted and we have to keep working hard.”

Grant credited his guards for his big night.

“The gameplan was good from the beginning,” he said. “The guards did a great job of throwing it in to me, and we just took over the game.”

Stitt said it feels good to get a win after being 0-for-3 in his previous tournament appearances.

“This feels good for us as seniors,” he said. “We didn’t want this to be our last game. It feels good to get that first win, but we know we still have work to do. We just need to get rest, because we have to play in Tampa now. We have to get ready for West Virginia.”




Blazers Statistics
STARTERS	M	FG	3FG	FT	OR	TR	A	TO	STL	BLK	PF	PTS
J. Sanders, G	37	7-17	5-9	0-0	0	5	1	6	1	1	0	19
A. Johnson, G	34	2-7	2-3	0-0	0	4	7	6	2	0	3	6
D. Fields, G	34	4-7	4-6	0-0	1	3	0	0	0	0	0	12
C. Moore, F	32	2-5	0-1	0-1	2	8	0	3	1	2	1	4
O. Soko, F	27	2-4	0-0	4-6	0	3	0	2	0	0	2	8

BENCH		M	FG	3FG	FT	OR	TR	A	TO	STL	BLK	PF	PTS
A. Criswell, F	10	0-2	0-0	0-0	1	3	0	1	0	0	1	0
Q. Taylor, G	10	0-2	0-2	0-0	1	1	1	0	0	0	0	0
P. Purifoy, G	8	1-4	1-3	0-0	0	0	0	1	0	0	2	3
R. Williams, G	7	0-0	0-0	0-0	0	0	1	0	0	0	1	0
M. Jones, G	1	0-0	0-0	0-0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0
B. Hamga, C	Did Not Play
J. Swing, F	Did Not Play
K. Moton, G	Did Not Play
Totals	 		18-48	12-24	4-7	5	27	10	19	4	3	10	52
 			37.5%	50.0%	57.1%	 

Tigers Statistics
STARTERS	M	FG	3FG	FT	OR	TR	A	TO	STL	BLK	PF	PTS
T. Smith, G	33	4-6	0-1	2-2	0	2	2	2	4	0	0	10
D. Stitt, G	32	3-7	0-2	1-1	0	4	3	3	2	1	1	7
J. Grant, F-C	31	10-15	0-0	2-3	2	7	1	0	0	1	0	22
A. Young, G	31	2-8	2-7	2-2	0	0	5	1	2	0	0	8
D. Booker, F-C	29	2-7	1-1	5-6	1	7	3	1	0	0	3	10

BENCH		M	FG	3FG	FT	OR	TR	A	TO	STL	BLK	PF	PTS
M. Jennings, F	17	4-5	1-2	2-2	0	3	0	0	0	0	3	11
Z. Anderson, G	10	0-0	0-0	0-0	0	1	1	4	1	0	3	0
C. Stanton, G	8	1-1	0-0	0-0	0	0	2	0	0	0	0	2
B. Narcisse, F	7	0-1	0-0	0-0	0	1	0	0	1	0	2	0
C. Baciu, C	1	0-0	0-0	0-0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0
J. Baize, F	1	0-0	0-0	0-0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0
D. Hopkins, G	Did Not Play
Totals	 		26-50	4-13	14-16	3	25	17	11	10	2	12	70
 			52.0%	30.8%	87.5%	 

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