Lalanne's 20 points lead UMass to 62-56 win
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP)
The Minutemen (6-0) continued their best start since the 2010-11 team opened 7-0. Not that it came easy as the Tigers (5-1) cut a 14-point lead to 59-56 on Rod Hall's basket with 56.4 seconds left.
The Tigers final chance ended when 6-foot-10 Ibrahim Djambo was off the mark on a 3-ponter with 13 seconds to go.
Derrick Gordon had 10 points, the only other player in double figures for the Minutemen.
Rod Hall had 16 points to lead Clemson.
K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers leading scorer at nearly 19 points a game, was held to 14 on 4-of-14 shooting.
The Minutemen appeared to have this one locked up, ahead 47-33 on Maxie Esho's inside basket with 11:27 to go. That's when Clemson reeled off a 19-9 run over the next seven minutes to get within striking distance.
Massachusetts looked to build on its best start in four seasons when it opened 7-0. The Minutemen came into the tournament with wins over Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference and LSU of the Southeastern Conference. They knocked off the Big Ten's Nebraska to open things here, then outran the tourney's featured team, No. 19 New Mexico, in the second half for a 81-65 victory.
UMass pushed the pace again against Clemson, with 5-foot-9 Chaz Williams exploding past the Tigers defenders into the front court. Most times, Lalanne was on the other end of Williiams' passes. Lalanne had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the opening half. Four of Lalanne's seven first-half rebounds were on the offensive glass, which can be put-back for easy scores.
Clemson was led by McDaniels, who scored 20 or more points in four of the Tigers first four games. He struck for 20 in the tournament-opening win over Temple and 22 a night later, when Clemson advanced to the championship with dominating, 85-54 win over Davidson.
But McDaniels struggled against the taller, more physical Minutemen defenders. He missed his first five shots with his lone first-half basket a tip in off Rod Hall's miss late in the period.
The Tigers, off to their best start since opening 16-0 in 2008-09, were trying to become the tournament's only two-time champion. They won the inaugural event here in 2008, defeating Hofstra, TCU and Temple in the finals as part of that long, undefeated run five years ago.
Massachusetts broke on top with an 11-0 run for an 18-10 lead less than eight minutes into the game. Clemson drew within 23-19 and the Minutemen were off and running again, outscoring the Tigers 11-5 the rest of the period to lead 34-24 at the break.
Clemson guard Jordan Roper, the team's leading scorer at 10.4 points a game, took a shot to the head, went to the locker room and did not return.