Faced with yet another team preferring to grind it out, top-ranked Syracuse closed each half with a strong run on Sunday night, giving them enough punch to knock out Clemson at the Carrier Dome, 57-44. The Orange (23-0, 10-0 ACC) did not put forth one of their best games on offense, but certainly did the job on defense, stifling the Tigers (15-7, 6-4) throughout.
Clemson was able to hang around for most of the first half, in large part due to making more free throws (eight) than field goals (six). Their lack of firepower, however, cost them when they allowed SU to close the first half on a 9-0 run, digging themselves a hole they could not escape.
The Syracuse offense was pretty solid on the night, making just over 44 percent of their field goals against a Tigers unit that came into the contest allowing their foes to connect on just over 38 percent of their shots. The Orange were particularly successful inside, pounding on the visitors for 32 points in the paint.
After each team notched a pair of scores to open the game, SU rolled up six straight points for a 10-4 lead less than six minutes into the affair. Tyler Ennis capped the run with an athletic tip-in, reaching back over his head to redirect the ball into the bucket.
Clemson responded with seven straight points of their own in less than 90 seconds. The Orange replied with six more points, capped by a soft tip-in from Baye Moussa Keita that gave them a 16-11 lead just past the midpoint of the first half. It was Keita’s last contribution to the scoresheet, as less than three minutes later, he would leave the game with what was termed a sprained knee and not return.
The Tigers outscored Syracuse by an 11-6 margin to knot the game at 22 with under 4:30 left on the clock. Trevor Cooney jumpstarted a 9-0 burst to close the half with a three-pointer and, after C.J. Fair scored in the waning seconds, the Orange held a 31-22 lead at the break.
Clemson climbed back within a half dozen coming out of the gate, but SU posted six points before the first media timeout of the second held and held the largest lead to that point at 39-27. The Tigers immediately halved that lead, then fought back within 42-37 with just over nine minutes off the clock.
The Orange again rang up six straight points to regain control at 48-37 with just under seven minutes remaining. Clemson got back within eight points on two occasions, but Syracuse scored on three straight possessions, capped by a Cooney triple, to take the largest lead of the night at 57-42 with 2:04 on the clock. The visitors could only muster a meaningless field goal from there and SU claimed the victory.
C.J. Fair bounced back nicely from his rough outing against Notre Dame, dropping in 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. Jerami Grant finished with a dozen points and eight rebounds, doing most of his work (eight points, seven boards) in the opening half. Trevor Cooney was the third SU player in double figures, finishing with 11 points. He also nabbed three steals in the game.
K.J. McDaniels was the lone double figure scorer for Clemson, matching Fair’s 19-point output. McDaniels also pulled down a game-high ten rebounds.
The Orange return to action on Wednesday when they look to complete a season series over Pittsburgh. The Panthers (20-4, 8-3) have won four of six, including their last two games, since SU handed them a 59-54 loss at the Carrier Dome on January 18.
Lamar Patterson leads three Panthers who average double digits in scoring at 17.2 points per outing. He led all scorers in the first matchup between the two teams with 18 points.
The game will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern. ESPN will televise the game, as well as stream it online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.