For the seventh time in their last eight games, Syracuse was in a tight contest that went down to the waning seconds of regulation. This time, their effort came up short and the Orange (13-8, 6-4 ACC) dropped a 71-70 contest at Clemson, snapping a five-game win streak.
The Tigers (11-9, 5-5) notched the winning lay-up with 2.3 seconds to play and survived a pair of inbound plays from SU, the first on a deflected pass out of bounds and the second when Elijah Hughes’ heave from just inside halfcourt went nowhere near the basket.
Syracuse took a 70-67 lead on a long three-pointer from Joe Girard III with under 90 seconds to play, but could not score again. Meanwhile, Clemson responded with a basket and got a pair of stops on the defensive end before getting the winning basket.
The Orange were roughed up on the inside, allowing the Tigers to make 13-of-18 shots inside the arc in the second half and giving up a 36-26 rebounding edge to the hosts. SU held an 18-6 scoring advantage in the paint during the opening half, but Clemson dominated inside after the break by a 26-12 margin.
The Tigers held the advantage early, but Syracuse put together the first run of the night, capping a 14-3 burst with nine straight points. With the Orange trailing 17-11, Elijah Hughes shook free from his defender for a three-pointer, then Buddy Boeheim made an acrobatic lay-up to make it a one-point game.
Clemson answered with a three, but Quincy Guerrier added a lay-up and Boeheim a pretty scoop shot, knotting the score. Hughes was fouled on a trey, making all three foul shots, then made a steal and broke free for a lay-up and a 25-20 SU lead with a little over five minutes left in the first half.
After each team notched a basket, the Tigers ripped off an 8-2 run, closing the span with a three for a 30-29 edge. Syracuse answered with a pair of Boeheim threes around a Clemson triple and took a 35-33 halftime lead.
The Orange also opened the second session with a 10-2 run to take the lone double-digit lead of the contest. Hughes started things with a lay-up, then added a floater. Boeheim made a lay-up, then chased a Tiger basket with a three from the left wing. Joe Girard III closed the run with a steal and lay-up attempt that earned a goaltending whistle and a 45-35 lead just over three-and-a-half minutes after play resumed.
Two-and-a-half minutes later, Clemson ran off eight straight points to trigger a 12-2 burst, grabbing a 53-52 lead with just over nine minutes to play.
While both teams would go in front, neither team would lead by three points the rest of the way. Four free throws put SU on top by three, but three straight successful trips gave the hosts a three-point margin. Syracuse would again take a three-point lead at 65-62 with under three minutes to go, but the Tigers tied the score at 67 a minute later.
Girard responded with a long three to put the Orange in front, but that simply set the stage for Clemson’s comeback.
Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes led SU with 22 points apiece. Boeheim with four threes in the game while Hughes did work at the stripe, hitting 8-of-9 foul shots and also amassed five steals. Joe Girard III added ten points while Marek Dolezaj had eight before fouling out.
Tevin Mack was just about unstoppable for Clemson, shooting 12-of-17 from the floor while piling up 32 points and ten rebounds. Clyde Trapp connected four times from long range for the bulk of his 17 points. John Newman III added nine points.
Saturday night is the highlight of the Orange schedule, as #9 Duke will come to the Carrier Dome. The Blue Devils (17-3, 7-2) have righted their ship, chasing a two-game slide with a pair of wins, including Tuesday’s 79-67 decision over Pitt.
Four different players average in double digits for Duke, led by Vernon Carey Jr. Carey averages 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks, all team-leading figures. Tre Jones averages 14.9 points and 6.8 assists per game while Matthew Hurt is the top three-point shooter for the Blue Devils, making 33 triples on 42.3 percent shooting from deep.
ESPN will televise the Duke-Syracuse game, which will tip off at 8:00pm Eastern on Saturday.