Clemson senior Chase Hunter (1) scored 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists against the Arizona Wildcats (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The Clemson Tigers men’s basketball team survived a late rally by the ninth-ranked Arizona Wildcats to win 77-72 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Senior guard Chase Hunter drew fouls in the final minutes, which put the game out of reach for the Wildcats.

“That was definitely a big moment for our team,” Hunter said. “I had the confidence we were going to win that game.”

Hunter led the Clemson offense with 18 points and senior center PJ Hall made eight rebounds along with 17 points.

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Wildcats sophomore Jaden Bradley led with 18 points with fifth-year forward Keshad Johnson making 11 rebounds. Pac-12 Player of the Year Caleb Love scored 13 points. They were the last Pac-12 team in the men’s basketball tournament.

“Being the last Pac-12 team, proud of the guys and proud of our coaches and our culture,” Love said. “We weren’t able to achieve the goal we wanted to achieve but still a tight group, still love each other.”

Shots were falling for the Tigers in the early minutes, launching them to a 16-6 lead. Arizona struggled scoring from the perimeter which had them trailing. The Clemson front court gave the Wildcats problems on both ends of the court.  Clemson head coach Brad Brownell mentioned how the team was “fortunate” to put on an effective performance.

“We probably have more of an offensive mentality and identity than some of my other teams,” Brownell said. “Challenging these guys and getting them to understand how important the defensive end is has been critical.”

Arizona senior center Oumar Ballo (11) defends Clemson junior forward Ian Schieffelin (4) (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Arizona found their offensive rhythm late in the first half, coming within six points of the Tigers after senior center Oumar Ballo made a dunk with 00:56 left in the first half. Attacking the paint and speeding up the pace of the game helped Arizona score. Arizona made 17 shots close to the rim, whether it be dunks or lay ups.

By halftime, Hunter and Hall had 10 points each; Bradley had 16 points. Although their scoring was slow, the Wildcats were 14-17 in free throws in the first half. They also had six steals.

The Wildcats found a seven-point run to tie the game at 43. The run was cultivated by fast-break shots.

“The second half, we made a more concerted effort,” said Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd. “We wanted to attack the [Wildcats], move the ball, attack, drive closeouts, play with our feet on the ground in the paint.”

As the second half continued, Arizona found shots at the free throw line. A charity point made by Bradley at the 9:55 mark tied the game at 56. Clemson then went on a 9-2 run.

“We knew [the Wildcats] like to get up shots, a few players are volume scorers,” Hunter said. “We wanted to make it hard for them. When they don’t make it easy, when you don’t see it going in, your confidence gets down. That’s what we wanted to do to them.”

Bradley and Ballo made plays down the line but the Tigers found a way to stay ahead. Although the Wildcats had eight steals and four blocks, shooting at 37.3 percent from the field and 17.9 percent from deep worked against their strong defensive performance.

“They’re incredible guys, I’m so thankful that they took a chance on coming to Arizona and playing for our staff,” Lloyd said. “I’m just thankful. It reinforces to me that you can do the things the right way, run the right culture and put your team in position to compete at the highest levels.”

The Tigers will battle the Alabama Roll Tide on March 30 at 5:49 P.M. at Arena.