Syracuse falters in second half, losing regular season finale to Clemson

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson
Mar 9, 2019; Clemson, SC, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Elijah Hughes (33) battles for a rebound with Clemson Tigers guards Marcquise Reed (2) and Shelton Mitchell (4) during the first half of the game at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, it was a tale of two halves for Syracuse, as they led for almost all of the first half and into the second session, but gave up runs of 14, nine, and seven unanswered points as they fell at Clemson, 67-55. The Orange (19-12, 10-8 ACC) held the Tigers (19-12, 9-9) to just 24 points in the first half, but could only muster that many points after intermission as their defense failed.

Clemson made a lot of hay at the free throw line in the second half, converting a dozen SU fouls into a 16-of-18 mark at the stripe. The hosts also punished the Orange on the glass in the second session, owning a 24-10 rebounding advantage, including nine offensive rebounds.

Syracuse made just 37.5 percent of their shots in the game, including just one-third of their second half attempts. SU also committed 18 turnovers in the game.

The Orange defense was sharp out of the gate, collecting four blocked shots as they forced Clemson to miss their first 13 attempts from the floor. The Syracuse offense, naturally, could hardly take advantage, as they could only muster a pair of baskets in the paint by Oshae Brissett.

Just before the midpoint of the first half, SU strung together the first run of the day, using a 12-3 burst to stretch a one-point lead to a 23-13 gap. Brissett drove to set up Marek Dolezaj on the doorstep and, following a Tiger foul shot, Buddy Boeheim hit a long three from the right wing. Bourama Sidibe added a putback to make the lead seven.

After a Clemson score, Frank Howard found Sidibe after a scramble for another inside basket. Brissett was then fouled attempting a triple and connected on all three foul shots for a 23-13 lead with under seven minutes left in the opening half.

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The Tigers quickly halved the lead and once trimmed the difference to four points, but Syracuse kept them at bay and took a 31-24 lead into the break. The Orange kept Clemson at bay for the first few minutes of the second half, but just under five minutes after action resumed, the hosts took off, posting 14 straight points for their first lead of the day.

After the Tigers posted seven straight points for their first lead of the game at 40-38, SU coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout. The brief break provided to relief, as Clemson tackled on seven more points when the action resumed. In less than four minutes, the Tigers turned a five-point deficit into a 47-38 lead.

Syracuse came right back. Brissett hit a three-pointer from just left of the top of the key and dished to Paschal Chukwu for a two-handed slam. Clemson answered with an inside score, but Boeheim made a three-pointer while being fouled, tacking on the free throw to bring the Orange within 49-47 with just under nine minutes to play.

The hosts replied with the game’s next nine points to grab a double-digit lead once more. The Tigers made seven straight foul shots followed by a short jumper to grab a 58-47 lead.

SU would trim the margin to seven points two different times, the latter with just over four minutes to go, but Clemson had one more run of seven straight points to finish off the competitive portion of the game. The last burst gave the Tigers a 67-53 lead with just over 2:30 on the clock and neither team hit a field goal the rest of the way.

Oshae Brissett led the Orange with 15 points. Buddy Boeheim had 11 points off the bench and Tyus Battle scored ten. In his first extended play in some time, Bourama Sidibe chipped in eight points as a reserve.

Marcquise Reed led all scorers, pouring in 24 points, 20 coming in the second half, to go with ten rebounds. Elijah Thomas also had a double-double for Clemson, posting 13 points and 11 boards. Shelton Mitchell added ten points while Aamir Simms dropped in eight.

Syracuse will now wait for the ACC Tournament to get underway. The Orange, who earned the sixth-seed via tiebreaker over Louisville, have a first-round bye and will play the winner of 11th-seeded Boston College and 14th-seeded Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at approximately 9:00pm Eastern on ESPN2.

SU swept both the Eagles and Panthers this season. Syracuse defeated BC on the road, 77-71, and at the Carrier Dome, 67-46, while dropping Pitt at home, 74-63, and in Pittsburgh, 65-56.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.