A quick take on Syracuse’s disappointing 67-55 loss to Clemson Saturday afternoon, in front of a noisy near sell-out crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C.:
WHAT HAPPENED: The regular season ended with a thud as Syracuse dropped four of its final five games, and it led at halftime in all four defeats. SU also left its spot in next week’s ACC Tournament up for grabs depending on the outcome of today’s ACC games to wrap up the regular season. SU is the No. 6 or 7 seed in the tournament at Charlotte. Once again, the ‘Cuse saw the halftime lead (31-24) evaporate with a struggling offense, and the Tigers, playing to secure an NCAA bid, got enough scoring in the second half (36 points) to hold on for the win. The Orange finished the regular season 19-12 and 10-8 in the ACC. Included in that record are head scratching losses to Connecticut out of conference and Georgia Tech in the Dome, but also wins at under-manned Duke and at Ohio State standing out.
ANALYSIS: There was a lot of second half frustration along the Syracuse bench as the Orange went over 10:00 without scoring as the home team stormed back. Clemson went on a 14-0 run to take the lead for good with 13:32 left in the second half and held off one late SU comeback attempt. The Tigers inside game got the Orange big men in foul trouble, and defensively CU hounded Tyus Battle all afternoon (10 points on 3-for-11 shooting) before he was briefly shaken up driving to the basket with 2:23 left. Two cogs of the starting five, Frank Howard and Elijah Hughes, combined for three points, and Howard fouled out with 7:32 left to play.
HERO: Clemson guard Marcquise Reed made sure he was going to go out a winner in his home finale. The flashy Reed finished with a standout game statistically, a double-double – 24 points (8/8 on the foul line), 10 rebounds, along with five steals and two assists leading the comeback.
ZERO: Without all five starters contributing along with the top three bench players, SU will have trouble scoring enough points to keep winning in the post season tournaments. Buddy Boeheim, Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe combined for 25 points, but it could not make up for Howard and Hughes only netting three points. In particular, Howard’s final season difficulties continued with erratic play before picking up his fifth personal foul, with the one 3-point basket to begin the second half scoring, one assist, and three turnovers.
WHAT’S NEXT: The post season. Syracuse begins play in the ACC Tournament on Wednesday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte as the No. 7 or No. 6 seed in the tournament. Game Times: 7:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. ET (approximately), respectively. TV: ESPN2/ACCN.