Tuesday night, Syracuse could not overcome another dodgy shooting performance, this time dropping a heartbreaker in overtime to Clemson at the Carrier Dome, 74-73. The Orange (10-6, 0-3) shot under 39 percent from the floor as they struggled to score consistently throughout the game.
SU also opted to play their baseline wings up in their zone defense, taking away the three-pointer from a team that attempts 41 percent of their field goals from beyond the arc. The Tigers (9-6, 2-1) took advantage, beating Syracuse inside time and time again, particularly on back-door opportunities, including several dunks. Clemson racked up a stunning 40 points in the paint en route to disposing over the Orange.
In spite of all of that, SU still had a chance to win in the final seconds of overtime. Trailing by a single point, Syracuse got a good look for Trevor Cooney, but he missed a three-pointer and the ball was deflected out of bounds, then awarded to Clemson with a single second remaining. The Tigers simply threw a long inbounds pass, tapped the ball to start the clock, then were able to celebrate.
The Orange got off to a quick start, as Tyler Roberson hit a couple shots around a Malachi Richardson three for a 7-2 advantage. Clemson struck back, tying the score on two occasions. Richardson hit another three to give Syracuse the lead just over five minutes into the half, which would turn out to be the last points scored by anyone other than Roberson or Michael Gbinije during the session.
In fact, after that Richardson triple, the Tigers piled up 19 of the night’s next 25 points, turning a 12-9 deficit into a 28-18 lead with under five minutes left in the opening half. In a span lasting nearly eight minutes, SU made one field goal.
Fortunately for the Orange, they came back with seven straight points to get back into the game. Gbinije stopped the bleeding with a trey, then Roberson connected off a shot-fake and move toward the basket. Gbinije then finished a Trevor Cooney steal with a fast break lay-up, drawing SU within 28-25 with under 3:30 in the half. The Tigers would be the only team to score before half, getting a three and a lay-in for a 33-25 lead at halftime.
Clemson also had an answer for everything Syracuse gave to them early in the second half. The Orange chipped away, getting within three points, but the Tigers eventually pushed their lead out to eight points again.
SU responded with a 14-5 run ended by a pair of Gbinije threes. The first was a clever shot pulled out of a transition opportunity that pulled Syracuse within two points. The second triple came over three minutes later and led to a Carrier Dome explosion as the Orange grabbed the lead at 51-50 with under six minutes left in regulation.
For the next several minutes, the two teams traded blows, passing a one-point advantage back and forth. Richardson ended that for SU. After dropping in a pair of foul shots that gave Syracuse a 57-56 lead, the freshman connected on a fadeaway three from the right corner with the shot clock waning to push the Orange out to a four-point advantage with just over a minute to go.
The Tigers got a pair of free throws to halve the deficit, but Richardson made only one of two to make it 61-58 in favor of SU. Clemson came down and, through some good ball movement, got an open three to tie the game with 5.5 seconds to go. Gbinije was able to get a three-point shot off for Syracuse, but it missed, sending the game to overtime.
After Clemson scored inside to open the extra session, Gbinije finished a smooth drive with a reverse lay-up. On the heels of another Clemson score, Richardson stuck a three-pointer for a 66-65 Orange lead.
Clemson, however, responded with a bucket and a three-point play for a four-point advantage. Richardson drove and was fouled, but only made a single charity shot. Following another Tiger score, the hosts trailed, 72-67, with 31 seconds to go.
Cooney connected on a three from the right corner to pull SU within a pair. Clemson made two foul shots, but Tyler Lydon swished a trey from the right wing to make it 74-73 in favor of the Tigers.
Following a Syracuse time out, Cooney stole the inbounds pass. The Orange worked frantically for a shot and got one, but Cooney’s three from the right corner missed and the ball was batted out of bounds with a second to play. Possession was awarded to the visitors, who left with a hard-fought win.
Four players combined all but four of the Orange points. Michael Gbinije led all scorers with 22 points, including hitting four treys, while Malachi Richardson hit 5-of-7 three-pointers en route to 21 points to go with nine rebounds. Both marks are career highs for Richardson. Tyler Roberson chipped in with 14 points while Trevor Cooney added 12, including three triples.
Jaron Blossomgame led a balanced Tiger attack with 20 points. Landry Nnoko was a force for Clemson, as he posted with a 19-point, ten-rebound double-double. Avry Holmes added a dozen points while Gabe DeVoe and Sidy Djitte chipped in with 11 and eight points, respectively.
SU’s homestand continues on Saturday when #6 North Carolina visits the Dome. The Tar Heels (13-2, 3-0) have won their last seven games, including Monday’s 106-90 explosion at Florida State.
Against the Seminoles, Brice Johnson became the second player in UNC’s illustrious basketball history to have 39 points and 23 rebounds in a game, matching Billy Cunningham, who did it twice in 1964. Johnson leads the Heels in both categories on the season at 16.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 64.5% percent from the field. Marcus Paige, who had 30 points against FSU, averages 16.3 points per outing and three other UNC players also average in double figures.
Saturday night’s game will get underway at 8:00pm Eastern and be televised by ESPN. The telecast can also be seen online at espn3.com and through the WatchESPN app.