for this game

Rivers, Clemson hold on to reach NIT semifinals

Mar 22, 2007 - 3:06 AM CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) -- K.C. Rivers' big effort nearly went for naught.

Rivers scored a career-high 29 points, including two big free throws with 18 seconds remaining, as top-seeded Clemson overcame an inspired rally by No. 2 Syracuse to post a 74-70 victory in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament's South Region.

Capturing their fourth straight win at home, the Tigers (24-10) advanced to Madison Square Garden in New York City to face Air Force, a 52-51 winner over DePaul, in the semifinals.

Clemson built up a 17-point lead after a dunk by Raymond Sykes made it 58-41 with 7:48 remaining.

However, the Orange (24-11) rallied in the face of having their season come to an end, closing within 67-66 with 1:04 left after Eric Devendorf's driving layup capped a 20-7 burst.

Playing after two starters fouled out, Tigers freshman David Potter had the biggest basket of his season when he grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a contested layup for a 69-66 edge with 27 seconds left.

Although Syracuse's Demetris Nichols responded with a follow shot of his own, Rivers converted two free throws to rebuild the three-point lead at 71-68.

Josh Wright then missed a 3-point attempt for the Orange, and Vernon Hamilton and Potter combined to convert 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to extend the Tigers' season.

Rivers finished 8-of-16 from the field with five 3-pointers. He scored 21 points in the first half to lead the Tigers to a 38-27 lead at the break.

James Mays added 13 points and seven rebounds for Clemson, which reached the NIT semifinals for the first time since losing to California in the title game in 1999.

Devendorf scored 23 points and Nichols added 20 for Syracuse, which shot just 3-of-16 on 3-pointers in losing for the fifth time in its last seven road games.