No more March Madness for New Mexico as Clemson ousts popular Lobos 77-56

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Chase Hunter scored 21 points and sixth-seeded Clemson ended No. 11 seed New Mexico's hopes of repeating the Mountain West's run in the NCAA Tournament, beating the Lobos 77-56 on Friday.

The Lobos (26-10) came in as the Mountain West Tournament champs, a popular pick to be this tournament's version of San Diego State a year ago and favored by 2 1/2 points in this game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. New Mexico won its league tournament, beating a trio of teams that also earned March Madness berths including SDSU — last year's national runner-up.

“We heard a lot of talk about that New Mexico was going to beat us, but we were just focused on us,” Hunter said. “We came out with some fire and intensity. They couldn’t handle it in the beginning. We kept it on them. We just kept our poise and our confidence. And we finished this game.”

Clemson (22-11) dominated on both ends, leading by 19 points in the first half and 23 in the second. The Tigers also held New Mexico to its worst shooting performance this season — 29.7% from the field and 13% (3 of 23) from 3-point range.

Tigers coach Brad Brownell said his team worked to keep New Mexico from getting to the rim, and Clemson wound up with a 38-28 scoring edge in the paint.

“We were able to play the game the way we wanted to play it,” Brownell said. “Getting off to a good start was extremely helpful as well.”

New Mexico coach Richard Pitino said he couldn't remember his Lobos making two shots in a row, adding that it felt like the rims were tight.

“Certainly the wrong day to go cold,” Pitino said. “We just couldn’t make a shot. Clemson had a lot to do with that. They’re big, they're disciplined.”

The Tigers will play third-seeded Baylor, a 92-67 winner over 14th-seeded Colgate, in the second round Sunday. A Sweet 16 game in Los Angeles awaits that winner on March 28.

Ian Schieffelin had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Clemson. PJ Hall added 14 points despite foul trouble.

Jamal Mashburn Jr., who followed Pitino from Minnesota to New Mexico, hit a jumper in the opening seconds to give the Lobos their only lead. Mashburn missed his final 10 shots and finished with six points.

Jaelen House, the Lobos' leading scorer, fouled out with 12 points. Nelly Junior Joseph had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Schieffelin hit a jumper to tie it up before Hunter's jumper gave Clemson the lead. New Mexico managed a second tie at 4-all.

Then Clemson took over with a 19-2 run and went ahead 30-11. The Lobos pulled within 38-28 on a 3-pointer by House with 1:22 remaining. Clark made a layup, then added a pair of free throws as Clemson took a 42-28 lead into halftime.

Every time the Lobos tried to string together a run, Clemson answered emphatically.

BIG PICTURE

New Mexico: The Lobos had been the betting favorite to make it a full sweep by 11 seeds in the first round. This was the program's 16th tournament berth and first since 2014. They're stuck on eight wins all-time, the last in 2012. ... New Mexico averaged 46% shooting this season.

Clemson: The Tigers came in having lost three of four and now have their first NCAA Tournament win since 2018. ... They had a 16-6 difference in assists and dominated with a 19-6 scoring edge off turnovers.

UP NEXT

Clemson will try to win a second-round game for the first time since 2018.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness