Arizona men’s basketball vs. Clemson final score: Wildcats fall to Tigers in Sweet 16

LOS ANGELES—Another year, another dose of what might have been for Arizona.

The second-seeded Wildcats built themselves a big hole in the first half against No. 6 Clemson, managed to climb out of it but then kept giving the Tigers back the shovel in a 77-72 loss in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The UA (27-9) lost its third straight Sweet 16 appearance by having an epicly bad performance from the 3-point line, going 5 of 28 with leading scorer Caleb Love missing all nine triples in a 5-of-18 effort from the field. The Wildcats shot 37.3 percent and had only three players score in double figures, dropping to 0-6 when fewer than four got to 10 points.

Jaden Bradley led the UA with 18 points off the bench, including 16 in the second half, while Oumar Ballo had 15 points and 15 rebounds and Love added 13. Starters Kylan Boswell, Keshad Johnson and Pelle Larsson combined to go 6 of 23 from the field.

Down 39-31 at the half, Arizona went on a 12-4 run to tie it at 43 by making five of six shots and forcing three Clemson turnovers. The Wildcats took their first lead, at 46-45, on a Love layup, and that woke the Tigers up.

A 3 by Jack Clark Jr. gave them back the lead, which they extended to 53-48 not long after. The UA chipped away, tying it at 56 with 9:55 remaining on back-to-back trips to the line by Bradley, but then Clemson ran off five in a row again including a banked-in 3 by Ian Schieffelin.

The line was the only placed Arizona was scoring after the hot start, with the Wildcats missing 18 of 19 shots. Yet Clemson’s lead was only seven when Johnson hit a 3 to end the field goal drought and get the UA within 65-61 with 4:21 left.

A Bradley dunk off a steal cut it to 66-63 with 3:26 remaining as Clemson matched the UA’s cold shooting, missing seven in a row. Larsson had a 3 to tie it with 2:47 to go but it was off, and after PJ Hall made two free throws the teams traded baskets inside with the Tigers scoring off a back-cut after a timeout to make it 72-67 with 1:05 to go.

Bradley drained his second 3 to cut it to 72-70 with 49.4 seconds left, but Clemson had one final answer when Chase Hunter drove, laid up a reverse and was fouled. He made the free throw to get it back to five, and after Love scored on a runner the Wildcats botched the inbounds and allowed Dillon Hunter to get free for a clinching score.

Arizona had about as bad a start as possible, missing its first six shots and turning it over three times before scoring. Clemson took advantage to get out to a double-digit lead with 11:18 in the first half, extending it to 13 on a Chauncey Wiggins 3 (off a UA turnover) and prompting Tommy Lloyd to call timeout down 27-14 with 7:19 go in the half.

The Wildcats started to click, briefly, going on a 6-0 run by driving and drawing fouls, and within 31-24 with 5:10 remaining only to see the Tigers score twice in a row to get it back to 11. Another UA push, highlighted by a pair of Ballo dunks, cut the deficit to six in the final minute before Clemson made its first foul shots of the game and Love airballed a long 3 before the half ended.

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