Clemson beats UAB, West Virginia awaitsMar 16, 2011 - 5:15 AM Dayton, OH (Sports Network) - Jerai Grant scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Clemson made easy work of UAB, 70-52, in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena.
The "First Four" game was between the last two at-large programs selected in the now 68-field tourney, but the affair was completely one-sided.
The Tigers won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1997 by making 52 percent from the field and forcing 19 turnovers to win going away and earn a No. 12 seed in the East Regional, where they will play fifth-seeded West Virginia on Thursday in Tampa.
Milton Jennings netted 11 points, while Tanner Smith and Devin Booker both added 10 for Clemson (22-11), which narrowly made the field after finishing tied for fourth in a mediocre Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It might have looked a little easy, but we really had to work defensively," Smith said of the lopsided win. "We did a good job with the game plan ... and we're going to have to do it again soon."
Jamarr Sanders led UAB with 19 points, as the Blazers (22-9) did little to silence critics of their tournament-worthy resume coming out of unheralded Conference USA.
The Tigers had lost their first game in the NCAA Tournament each of the previous three years, but it was evident early on that the fourth time was the charm.
Dexter Fields' three-pointer 2 1/2 minutes in gave UAB its only lead, 5-4, as the Blazers went the next eight-plus minutes without a field goal.
Demontez Stitt started the ensuing 21-2 run with a jumper, and Booker's three- pointer near the midway point made it a 25-7 game.
Sanders ended UAB's drought with a pair of three-pointers, but Clemson coasted into the break holding a 39-27 cushion.
Early in the second half, Sanders again hit from long range on consecutive possessions to finally cut the deficit to single digits, 43-35, but that was as close as the Blazers got.
Stitt stopped the momentum with a bucket, and Andre Young added a three the next time down to regain control with 15 minutes to go.
An 11-2 run a little later, conveniently capped by the senior Grant's layup, gave the Tigers an insurmountable 61-42 advantage that was not challenged in the final 5 1/2 minutes.
Clemson improved to 9-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, while UAB fell to 9-14...UAB was playing in this event for the first time since 2006...Clemson only needed seven points from Stitt, who came in averaging 14.7 points per contest...UAB's Aaron Johnson, whose 7.7 assists per game coming in led the nation, broke his leg late in the second half. He finished with seven helpers and six points in the loss...Fields scored 12 points for UAB, which shot 38 percent from the field...Cameron Moore scored four points for the Blazers, 10 below his season average.
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