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RECAP: Balanced Rutgers earns tight win over Clemson

Mar 19, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Caleb McConnell (22) shoots the ball over Clemson Tigers forward Hunter Tyson (5) during the first half in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Geo Baker, Caleb McConnell and Jacob Young each scored 13 points to lead 10th-seeded Rutgers past seventh-seeded Clemson 60-56 Friday night in a first-round NCAA Tournament Midwest Region game at Indianapolis.

Baker made a 3-pointer with 3:49 remaining to break a 55-55 tie and give Rutgers the lead for good. He added a clinching layup with 20 seconds left as the Scarlet Knights (16-11) moved into a second-round game against second-seeded Houston, which defeated 15th-seeded Cleveland State 87-56 earlier Friday.

Rutgers, playing in its first NCAA Tournament in 30 years, earned its first NCAA tourney victory in 38 years.

Ron Harper Jr., the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer, had 10 points while Myles Johnson and McConnell grabbed 10 rebounds apiece.

Aamir Simms led Clemson (16-8) with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Clyde Trapp had 14 points and Hunter Tyson scored 10.

Clemson was on top by as many as five points early in the game, but the lead changed hands seven times before the Tigers settled for a 26-23 edge at the half on Trapp’s layup at the buzzer.

Trapp scored nine consecutive points for the Tigers at the outset of the second half as Clemson built a 35-32 lead with 15:14 left.

Rutgers responded in a big way and grabbed an 11-point lead on a 3-pointer by McConnell with 9:30 to play. But the Tigers mounted a scoring surge of their own, going on a 10-0 run to pull within 50-49 on a Chase Hunter jumper, then tying the game at 55 on a three-point play by Trapp with 4:12 left.

Clemson managed just one point in the game’s last 3 1/2 minutes.

Rutgers shot 39.7 percent from the floor while the Tigers shot 35.6 percent. The Scarlet Knights also outrebounded Clemson by a 41-32 margin.

–Field Level Media