A quick take on Syracuse’s 55-52 win over No. 18 Clemson on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome to conclude the 2017-18 regular season:
WHAT HAPPENED: With four seconds left and Syracuse clinging to a 54-52 lead, Marcquise Reed was stuffed going up for a potential game-tying shot by Oshae Brissett. After a scrum under the basket, the referees gave possession to Syracuse with 3.4 seconds to go. Marek Dolezaj was fouled and hit a free throw before Gabe DeVoe’s 3-point prayer from half court rimed out, and the Orange upset a top 25 team for the first time this season. It capped an incredibly entertaining back-and-forth game where neither team led by more than four points in the final 10 minutes.
ANALYSIS: With the regular season over, Syracuse can look back at plenty of ‘What If’ situations that could’ve made their path to an NCAA Tournament better. Surely, a win over the No. 18 team in the country will be a resume builder, but with a losing 8-10 record in the ACC, the Orange will need at least two wins to put itself in the conversation for one of the precious at-large bids. The road wouldn’t have been as tenuous had Syracuse won in overtime against St. Bonaventure in December, or claimed wins against Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Florida State and Georgia Tech, all losses (some in overtime) that came down to a handful of possessions. Still, the Orange goes to New York City with hope, which is more than most could’ve predicted after a brutal loss to Boston College earlier in the week.
HERO: Brissett made the play of the game on his block against Reed, and had several other clutch plays to go with it. With Syracuse trailing 50-49 with 3:19 left, Brissett snagged a key offensive rebound from a Tyus Battle missed 3-pointer and was fouled, hitting one of two free throws to tie it. With 2:30 to go, Reed missed a 3-pointer and Brissett again corralled the rebound and sank what gave Syracuse the lead it would never relinquish. Brissett finished with 17 points on 4-9 shooting form the field and 8-9 from the line to go with six rebounds, two steals and three blocks.
ZERO: If you like offensive fireworks, this was not the game for you. Syracuse won despite not hitting a field goal in the final 8:45, with SU’s two top guns, Frank Howard (4-14 shooting) and Tyus Battle (5-20) having poor shooting days. The Orange shot 30.2 percent from the field and 6-19 from downtown, but was a lights out 17 for 20 from the free throw line, which was exclusively where its offense came from down the stretch.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will take the drive down to New York City on Tuesday to try to win its first ever ACC Tournament game as either a No. 11 or 12 seed. That will depend on the outcome of Florida State/Boston Colelge, to be played later today.