NCAA hoops: Missouri stifles Booker, beats Clemson 86-78
By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. — “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” is still humming.
Kim English and Keith Ramsey each scored 20 points, and Missouri’s swarming defense lived up to its reputation during an 86-78 victory over Clemson in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
Missouri (23-10), the 10th seed in the East Regional, has won five straight opening-round games and will play Big East tournament champion West Virginia in the second round Sunday. The second-seeded Mountaineers beat Morgan State 77-50 earlier Friday.
No. 7 seed Clemson (21-11) goes home for the third straight year after a first-round loss to a lower-seeded team. Tigers coach Oliver Purnell is winless in six trips to the NCAA tournament with three schools.
Missouri’s defense, small, swift and smart, played at a high level. It forced 20 turnovers, nabbed 15 steals and stifled Clemson star Trevor Booker for 35 minutes. Booker finished with 11 points, eight coming in a late 3-minute span, and pulled down 11 rebounds in the final game of his stellar career.
Missouri, which entered averaging nearly 11 steals a game, tops in the country, outscored Clemson 22-2 on the fast break, 20-5 off turnovers and 42-28 in the paint, consistently converting turnovers into easy baskets.
Demontez Stitt had 21 points, Andre Young 19 and Jerai Grant 12 for Clemson, which shot 12 of 24 on 3-pointers but managed just two steals.
Laurence Bowers scored 15 points and J.T. Tiller had 10 points, five assists and five steals for Missouri.
English’s 3-pointer from the right corner gave Missouri a 54-50 lead with 13:10 remaining in a game that featured 11 ties and 11 lead changes. That sent the Tigers on a 15-5 run that put them in command.
Nothing signified Clemson’s troubles more than a single possession with just under 10 minutes to play. Booker, trying desperately to get something going despite constant double and triple teams, was stripped of the ball by Ramsey, who turned and quickly fed a closing Bowers for a resounding slam dunk and a 63-55 lead with 8:18 left.
English drained another 3 with 6:51 to go and Tiller’s three-point play 27 seconds later boosted the Missouri lead to 71-60. And it was all hustle as Tiller rebounded a miss by English and was fouled as he drove the lane for a layup.
Both teams play a pressing style and entered hoping to right what had gone wrong recently. Missouri was stunned 75-60 by 12th-seeded Nebraska in the Big 12 tournament, while Clemson lost by a basket to 11th-seeded North Carolina State in the ACC tournament.
Booker, the only player in ACC history with at least 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 blocks and 100 steals, played his 134th straight game for Clemson to set a school record for total games started. He departs without a win in the NCAA tournament.
This wasn’t the Missouri team that advanced to the round of eight a year ago. Missouri lost 1,000-point scorers Matt Lawrence, DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons from last year’s team, which won a school-record 31 games.
It’s still pretty good, though, good enough to withstand a long-range onslaught in the first half. Clemson shot 51.9 percent and hit 8 of 13 3-pointers in the first half to overcome 12 Missouri steals and leave the court tied at 39. But Clemson went 14 of 36 (38.9 percent) after the break and Missouri shot nearly 60 percent (16 of 27).