Revived Syracuse surges past Clemson to keep NCAA hopes alive

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Mar 3, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Alan Griffin (0) shoots the ball against the defense of Clemson Tigers forward Hunter Tyson (5) during the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

While the game was not pretty, Syracuse got the desired result, pulling out a defensive struggle against Clemson at home on Wednesday evening, 64-54. The Orange (15-8, 9-7 ACC) got an 11-0 run to start the second half, stretching their three-point lead to 14, which proved a big enough cushion that the Tigers (15-6, 9-6) could never get within single digits again.

Both teams struggled on offense in the first half, but performed much better after halftime. SU shot 25 percent from the floor in the opening session, but doubled that figure in the second half. Clemson, meanwhile, mustered just a 22.6 percent success rate on field goals early and upped that to 46.4 percent in the second half. The Tigers, however, missed their first four shots of the second half and added a turnover while Syracuse went on their decisive run.

Not only was the Orange defense stingy in the game, they also did it while rarely fouling. SU committed 11 fouls in the game, including just four after halftime, leading to just a half dozen free throws attempts for Clemson in the game. As a result, Syracuse’s 12 free throws gave them an eight-point advantage on the scoreboard.

While Alan Griffin exploded for five three-pointers and 19 points overall in the second half, the Orange shot the ball markedly better inside the arc after the break. After posting a 2-for-10 first half effort inside the arc, SU was 9-for-14 on two-point field goals in the second session.

The Tigers opened the scoring, then promptly went into a 0-for-7 shooting drought that lasted over five minutes. Syracuse mustered three triples in that time, even while suffering through their own scoreless span of nearly three-and-a-half minutes.

Clemson chipped away to draw within a deuce just after nine minutes were elapsed, then went into another dry streak from the field, going over six minutes without a field goal this time. The Orange failed to take advantage, going over four minutes without a point during that span. When the Tigers got a three to end their cold snap, it pulled them within 15-14 with under five minutes left in the opening half.

Buddy Boeheim scored on consecutive trips, getting a three-pointer and a pair of foul shots to give SU a six-point lead. The two squads traded tallies over the remaining three-plus minutes, save for Clemson getting the last score of the half, a triple that halved the Syracuse margin to 25-22 at intermission.

It took a minute of the second half for the Orange to get hot, specifically Alan Griffin. The junior forward hit back-to-back threes to ignite an 11-0 run. Joe Girard III followed those treys by pushing the tempo for a lay-up and a Tiger timeout. Griffin followed that break in the action with his third triple in under 90 seconds for a 36-22 SU lead two-and-a-half minutes into the second half.

The hosts kept Clemson at bay for four more minutes, eventually getting another three from Griffin for their largest lead of the evening at 50-33. The Tigers responded with their best offensive play of the night, needing two minutes to hang a 9-2 run. The burst pulled them within 52-42 before the under-12 media timeout.

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Syracuse responded with the next five points as Clemson went through another scoreless span, this one lasting through the under-eight media timeout.

The guests would get within ten points again with just over four minutes to play, but Griffin’s fifth three-pointer bounced high off the rim, grazed the glass, and dropped through the hoop. Boeheim added a fallaway in the paint on the next possession, reinstating the 15-point margin and allowing the Orange to glide to the finish line.

Alan Griffin hit six triples as he posted a double-double of 22 points and ten rebounds to go with three blocked shots. Griffin did the bulk of his rebounding (eight) in the first half and his scoring (19) in the second. Buddy Boeheim added 17 points as the only other SU player to reach double figures. Quincy Guerrier had eight points and nine rebounds while Joe Girard III added seven points and handed out seven assists.

Al-Amir Dawes and Alex Hemenway were the only two Clemson players to crack double digits in scoring, finishing with 11 points and making three triples apiece. Chase Hunter had seven points while Aamir Simms and Hunter Tyson each scored six while combining for 15 rebounds.

Their schedule complete, Syracuse will await the release of the ACC Tournament schedule. The Orange currently stand eighth in the conference and will receive a first-round bye into Wednesday’s second round, as they cannot slip out of the top nine spots in the conference. ACC play will wrap up on Saturday and the full bracket will be set that night.

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About Jim Stechschulte 686 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, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.