NCAA ACCtion: Clemson's Late Rally Falls Short

March 17, 2011

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Clemson's quick turnaround eventually caught up with the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament.

Darryl Bryant scored 19 points and Kevin Jones added 17 to help No. 5 seed West Virginia overcome a slow start and wear down the 12th-seeded Tigers, 84-76 in the second round of the East Regional on Thursday.

The Mountaineers (21-11) advanced to play fourth-seeded Kentucky or No. 13 seed Princeton, taking advantage on a fatigued opponent playing its second game in just over 36 hours.

Bryant's four-point play and a long 3-pointer by Jones that tied it 40-40 at the half highlighted a game-changing 28-8 run that enabled West Virginia to turn a 10-point deficit into a 57-47 lead. The closest Clemson (22-12) would get the rest of the way was three.

That's when Dalton Pepper stepped up for West Virginia. The little-used reserve made two steals at midcourt that he turned into a dunk and layup in the closing minute, finishing with 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting and allowing the Mountaineers to finish the job.

Andre Young scored 22 points for Clemson, which beat UAB in the first round of the tournament in Dayton, Ohio, then boarded a plane for a middle-of-the-night flight to Florida to face a team that hadn't played in eight days.

Demontez Stitt had 16 points and Devin Booker and Jerai Grant added 13 each for the Tigers, who fell behind by 12 in the second half before making it interesting in the closing minutes.

Clemson arrived at its hotel in Tampa around 5 a.m. and spent the rest of Wednesday balancing the the need for rest while also preparing for an opponent that had not played since losing in the second round of the Big East tournament last week.

Coach Brad Brownell estimated he got about three hours of sleep, but he didn't complain about a quick turnaround that might have seemed even shorter had tourney officials not changed the initial plan. That called for the team advancing from the First Four to practice and conduct interviews in the morning rather than early evening.

Showing no signs of fatigue, Young scored 10 of Clemson's first 15 points and the Tigers bolted to an early 10-point lead that dwindled to one. Stitt led another surge to rebuild the advantage to 39-29 with less three minutes remaining in the opening half.

West Virginia closed the gap in a hurry, with five different players scoring during a burst that enabled the Mountaineers to pull even at the break. Jones extended the run with a tip-in that gave his team its first lead, and Bryant finished it with a four-point play that dumped Clemson into a 52-43 hole that the Tigers couldn't escape.

Joe Mazzulla scored 12 points for West Virginia, including two free throws that put the Mountaineers up 76-71 with 1:43 to go. Pepper's steals on consecutive Clemson possessions thwarted any chance for a Tigers comeback.