A strong defensive effort and just enough offense proved to be a winning recipe for Syracuse on Wednesday night, as they held on for a 61-53 home win over Clemson. The Orange (11-4, 2-0 ACC) held their guests to under 36 percent shooting in the game and withstood a late push to claim the victory. The loss drops the Tigers to 10-5 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
The SU defense also forced 17 turnovers in the contest, turning them into 20 points. While Syracuse was not particularly great on offense, their effort on that end was balanced, as every starter scored at least nine points. Perhaps the most important offensive stat was that the Orange closed the game by making 10 of their final 12 free throw attempts.
SU took command early, holding the Tigers without a point for nearly four minutes while they rolled off ten straight markers. Marek Dolezaj started the run with a three-pointer and Elijah Hughes took off with a Bourama Sidibe block for a lay-in. Sidibe added a lay-up in the post and Hughes connected on a three from the top of the key for a 12-5 lead just over five-and-a-half minutes into the action.
Syracuse gradually extended their lead over the next several minutes, reaching double-digits when Jalen Carey found a cutting Oshae Brissett for a lay-in for a 19-9 advantage just past the midpoint of the opening half. Dolezaj fed Brissett for a slam to make the lead 11 and Tyus Battle eventually sliced in for a lay-up and a 23-11 lead with just under eight minutes left in the half.
Clemson fought back with a 9-2 run to draw within five points, but a Brissett lay-up and a short jumper from Battle stretched the lead back to 29-20. The Orange would take a 30-22 lead to the half.
Coming out of the break, a pair of Hughes free throws and a Frank Howard jumper made the lead 12 once more. The Tigers hit back-to-back three-pointers to halve the lead, but SU responded with seven straight points, including triples from Dolezaj and Hughes, for a 41-28 edge just over five minutes into the half.
Syracuse remained in command, eventually getting a high-arcing triple from Hughes from the right wing to push the lead to 15. But, with under seven minutes to play, the Tigers rattled off an 8-0 run. Top scorer Marcquise Reed had seven of the eight Clemson points, including a trey that made it a 54-48 game with under five minutes on the clock.
Clemson, however, would go without a field goal until 20 seconds remained. The Orange, meanwhile, would go 5-of-6 from the foul line and add a short Brissett jumper for a ten-point margin with a minute to go, allowing them to coast to the final horn.
Elijah Hughes led the Orange in scoring and rebounding for the second straight outing, dropping in 14 points and collecting seven boards. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard each added a dozen points while Marek Dolezaj had ten. Oshae Brissett chipped in with nine points.
Marcquise Reed had a strong second half, including a stretch of nine points in just over two minutes to lead a Clemson rally, to finish with a game-high 16 points. Elijah Thomas was a load inside, scoring 13 points, and Aamir Simms chipped in with nine.
Syracuse will continue their modest two-game homestand on Saturday when Georgia Tech visits. The Yellow Jackets (9-6, 1-1) dropped a 52-49 decision to #9 Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday evening.
Jose Alvarado, who rang up 20 points for Georgia Tech against the Hokies, paces the squad in scoring and assists. Alvarado’s 13.6 points per game average leads four different GT players who score at least nine points per game.
SU dropped their matchup with the Yellow Jackets last season, falling 55-51 in Atlanta. Battle paced the Orange with 19 points while Brissett and Howard each had 11.
Saturday’s tip is set for 6:00pm Eastern with ESPN2 handling the telecast, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.