In its first NCAA Tournament game in 30 years, the Rutgers men's basketball team defeated Clemson 60-56, winning their first game in March Madness since 1983. The Scarlet Knights (16-11, 10-10) won a defensive battle that saw both teams shoot under 40 percent from the field.
The first half saw a slow start from both teams, with only two baskets recorded in the first three minutes. Senior guard Geo Baker began the scoring with a three-point shot, and would finish the half with 5 points. The Tigers (16-8, 10-6) saw early contributions from Al-Amir Dawes and Aamir Simms, who both had multiple first half buckets as Clemson would go to halftime up 26-23 over Rutgers.
In the second half, sophomore guard Paul Mulcahy provided two early threes to keep up with the increased scoring effort from the Tigers. The Knights would chase the lead for the first seven minutes of the half, until a three from senior guard Jacob Young put them ahead. Rutgers would hold onto this lead for the rest of the half, with junior guard Caleb McConnell producing 9 second-half points to help put the game away.
The Knights were led by four players who provided double-digit scoring in the victory, as McConnell, Young, Baker and junior forward Ron Harper Jr. all scored 10 or more points, with the first three leading the team with 13 for the game. Junior center Myles Johnson stepped up defensively, recording 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
Simms was the main scorer for Clemson, finishing with 15. He also finished with a team-leading 11 rebounds to give himself a double-double. Clyde Trapp scored 14 points, and three separate players led the team with three assists.
As a unit, both teams shot under 35 percent from beyond the three-point line, and both had double-digit turnovers in the defensive matchup. Rutgers shot 67 percent from the free throw line, and the Tigers only missed one free throw in the game.
With the victory, the Knights will advance to the second round of the tournament, where they will face off against No. 2 Houston on Sunday.
"I'm excited about the outcome of the game," said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell, according to Rutgers Athletics. "I respect Clemson a great deal. We knew it would be one of these games. I really liked our poise down the stretch. Everybody that checked into the game did some unbelievable things. I'm excited for Rutgers Nation and I'm excited to get to live another 40 minutes."
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