NCAA tournament at Viejas: No. 5 Clemson advances to Sweet 16, pummels No. 4 Auburn, 84-53


Photo by Kelly Smiley

Redshirt junior guard Shelton Mitchell smiles with his teammates during Clemson’s 84-59 victory over Auburn on March 18 at Viejas Arena.

by Abraham Jewett, Sports Editor

The Tigers battled the Tigers in the NCAA tournament’s Round of 32 at Viejas Arena on Sunday.

It was not great.

No. 5 Clemson University ran No. 4 University of Auburn out of the building, advancing to the Sweet 16 with a 84-53 beatdown of the SEC co-regular season champions. 

“Obviously just so proud of my team to play as well as we did on this stage,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. 

Clemson (25-9) led by as many as 41 points, thoroughly outplaying their feline-mascot sharing opponents from start to finish, two days after having little problems with New Mexico State University to advance to the Round of 32. 

“At the beginning of the year I  thought this team could be really good, and the way we played out here in San Diego was extremely high level,” Brownell said. “Super happy for our team and for our fans and looking forward to the next level.”

Auburn (26-8) shot a disastrous 24 percent from the floor, and were unable to recover after trailing by 24 points at the break.

“I feel like they had a couple of good looks and they could not knock them down,” Clemson senior guard Gabe DeVoe said. “I think our pressure and defensive intensity really bottled them up offensively.

DeVoe led Clemson with 22 points to go with five assists and five rebounds, and was one of three players in double figures for the team.

Clemson junior forward Elijah Thomas had 18 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks, while sophomore guard Marcquise Reed added 16 points and pulled down seven boards.

Clemson came out of halftime on an 11-2 run to increase its lead to 33, and the rout was on.

“Dominating performance by Clemson, they played great, they’ve been playing really well,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “They’ve got great guard play, Thomas is a factor, they’re extremely well coached, very well prepared and they dominated us.”

Clemson blew the doors off Auburn in the first half, taking a 43-19 lead into the break after going on a 25-4 run to end the opening period.

Auburn went nearly eight minutes without scoring a point during Clemson’s run, missing 13 straight shots – including four blocks – during the span.

Clemson, meanwhile, shot 53 percent from the field with both Thomas (11 points) and Reed (10 points) in double figures going into the break.

Auburn shot only 18 percent for the half, converting only six of 33 field goal attempts, and had nearly as many turnovers as field goals with five.

Auburn got off to a similarly slow start in their opening round game against College of Charleston two days earlier, shooting 28 percent to start the game before shooting a respectable 44 percent in the final period.

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