Arizona basketball stars go cold in Sweet 16 loss to Clemson

Mar 28, 2024, 6:26 PM | Updated: 7:38 pm

Arizona Wildcats guard Jaden Bradley against Clemson in the Sweet 16...

Jaden Bradley #0 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in a game against the Clemson Tigers during the second half in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Arena on March 28, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Caleb Love and Pelle Larsson had carried the Arizona Wildcats to a No. 2 seed in this NCAA Tournament. But that duo shot the Wildcats out of their Sweet 16 matchup against Clemson in a 77-72 loss Thursday at Arena in Los Angeles.

Love and Larsson made a single three in 15 attempts, and Love went 5-of-18 overall with nine missed treys himself in the loss for Arizona (27-9).

Arizona shot 37% for the game, going 5-of-28 from deep and only surviving by attacking Clemson with drives and, with it, causing foul trouble. The Wildcats won the free-throw line by 16 points, but it wasn’t enough.

Guard Chase Hunter led Clemson with 18 points and got help from P.J. Hall’s 17 points and Ian Schieffelin’s 14.

Clemson shot 49% hitting the Wildcats, whose hot-and-cold defense allowed two late backcuts leading to and-one plays in the final minute.

The Tigers will face the winner between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 4 Alabama.

Arizona has now ended six straight NCAA Tournament appearances with a loss to a team seeded at least four spots lower than it, the longest streak under the current seeding format started in 1979. Three of those have come under coach Tommy Lloyd, while the three prior were under the leadership of Sean Miller.

It has lost: As a 2 seed to No. 6 Clemson (2024 Sweet 16); as a 2 seed against No. 15 Princeton (2023 first round); as a 1 seed to No. 5 Houston (2022 Sweet 16); as a 4 seed to No. 13 Buffalo (2018 first round); as a 1 seed to No. 11 Xavier (2017 Sweet 16); and as a 6 seed against No. 11 Wichita State (2016 first round).

The Wildcats got 15 points from backup point guard Jaden Bradley, who proved himself inexpendible in a second-round win against Dayton and again facing Clemson. Bradley, a transfer from Alabama, scored 18 points and added four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. He scored eight points at the foul line.

Bradley’s three-point make with 49 seconds left brought the Wildcats within 72-70, but two and-ones by Clemson solidified the game.

As a whole, Arizona took 25 free throws and got frontcourt players Hall, Schieffelin and R.J. Godfrey in foul trouble. To that point, the Wildcats went from the 14:33 mark to 4:20 without a made field goal but stayed afloat with 12 straight points at the foul line.

It was a slow grind offensively from the start for Arizona. Lloyd’s team didn’t break into double-digit points until more than halfway through the first half.

Clemson led 29-16 with six minutes left in the first half before the Wildcats showed a little more juice getting downhill and into the paint before the break. Arizona trailed 39-31 after 20 minutes.

It was troubling at halftime that Arizona’s two best players, Love and Larsson, were a combined 3-for-14 from the field, 0-for-7 from three with five turnovers.

Arizona made up the rest of the halftime deficit quickly, tying the game at 43 apiece less than four minutes into the second half but never leading by more than a point.

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