GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman (Clemson Athletics) - No. 16 Clemson University men’s basketball held off Akron in the first round of the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday morning with a 72-69 victory to advance in the winner’s bracket of the tournament. Clemson will face the winner of Illinois State and Georgia at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Tigers (4-0) got a season-high 22 points from their point guard Shelton Mitchell, including Elijah Thomas’ 12th career double-double to down the Zips (3-1). Thomas tied his season high in points (15) and set a new season-high with 12 rebounds in the victory.
Aamir Simms posted his fourth double-digit scoring game of the season (four in a row). He scored in double-figures three times last season. Simms also continued his streak of hitting his first 3-point attempt to four games.
Following a jumper from the Zips’ Tyler Cheese, Akron took a 23-22 lead with 5:55 left in the opening stanza. From there, the Tigers would finish the last six minutes of the half on a 8-1 run.
In the second half, Marcquise Reed scored 12 of his 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting to help finish off the Zips. Thomas nearly posted a double-double in the second half with eight points and eight rebounds.
The Tigers pushed its lead to a game-high 15 points with 9:37 left in the second half following a three-point play from Mitchell.
In the last 10 minutes of regulation, the Tigers won the game seemingly three different times. Clemson built three double-digit leads during that time, but Akron wouldn’t go away and eventually lead to a three-point win for the Tigers following a last-second three-point heave from the Zips.