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Tip Drill: Clemson Devours Syracuse Orange, 66-53

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Clemson's defense held Syracuse to a season-low 18 first half points while maintaining a double-digit lead for 28 minutes in a blowout victory.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

1/17/2015 vs. Syracuse

Result: W 66-53 
CU Leading Scorer: Donte Grantham (16)
Key Stat: Syracuse scored 0 bench points

  • Clemson picked up their fourth KenPom top-100 victory (LSU, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) with a blowout victory over Syracuse. Could a win be any sweeter? We were just hoping Clemson could avoid starting ACC play 0-5. The win against Pittsburgh gave us that, but beating Syracuse really gets conference play off to a fantastic start. The schedule now eases up with Florida State and Wake Forest at home, a road trip to Raleigh, and then another winnable home game against Boston College.

  • If you haven't checked out the comments in the Syracuse gamethread, I can't recommend it highly enough. Their editor is a good guy, even if our fans (myself included) tend to butt heads, so I've got no problem linking there. There are some real gems in there including a random "I hate Clemson fans," some insults about the South, and best of all: "I live in Norman, OK. We are reacting the same way the OU fans did to losing to Clemson’s football team." 

  • Clemson did a lot of things well in this game. One of them was rebounding. The Tigers grabbed 42% of their own missed shots. As a raw total, it was a 40-30 rebounding advantage for Clemson.

  • Grantham shot .500 from the field including .500 from three. Sometimes he can be a "chucker." we say that a little bit today with some ugly misses early in the game and one late in the game when they would have been better off burning some clock, but overall you can see the talent. He makes some great plays on both sides of the ball that get you excited for the future. He and Blossomgame did a great job getting into the heart of the Syracuse zone and ripping it out! You can see why I'm excited to watch that duo for the next two seasons.

  • Rod Hall had a great all-around game. He scored 15 points on 4-6 shooting with a perfect 5-5 mark from the line (159Ortg), but even more impressive was his defense. Brownell elected to go back to a man-to-man look on defense rather than trying to continue Clemson's use of the 2-3 zone against the team that does it best. Rod Hall was a big reason it worked. Trevor Cooney came in averaging 14.5ppg, but was a horrible 0-7 from the field and didn't score a point until garbage time. Hall essentially stuck to him all game long, rarely helping off, and without Cooney scoring, the Syracuse offense looked atrocious.

  • One thing that really shocked me was Syracuse's lack of depth. They only played seven players, received no bench points, and got 44 of their 53 points from just three players. Rakeem Christmas is truly great. If he had left the game or struggled at any point, there's no telling how big the deficit would've gotten. He was the only Syracuse player to score in the first 16 minutes of the game! He had 21 points on 10-13 shooting and made it a double-double with 10 rebounds. Clemson elected not to double-team, which was a little surprising, but they clamped down so hard on everyone else that Christmas could only take them so far.

  • Clemson benefited from Syracuse's poor 2-15 shooting from three, but they came into the game 224th in 3P% and many of their looks were contested, off-balance, or rushed. They may have missed some shots they'd normally make, but it clearly wasn't the sole reason they were blown out of Littlejohn.

  • Jaron Blossomgame was great once again. Earlier this week, we posted a story about his vast improvement from last season. This was one of his better games. He scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting (133Ortg), many of which came as a direct result of his 5 offensive rebounds. The announcers called him "one of the most improved players in the ACC."

  • Sidy Djitte was in classic Sidy form. He rebounded very well, played good defense with the exception of his penchant for fouls (he had 4 personal fouls), and was abysmal on offense. He was 0-2 from the field and 0-2 from the FT line posting an Ortg of 79 (he had 4 offensive rebounds). Ideally, Nnoko would stay out of foul trouble, but it was a little more understandable in this game as he had to guard Rakeem Christmas. Nnoko struggled throughout the first half and committed his third foul less than 20 seconds into the second half, but came up with a few big plays down the stretch. They included a hook shot, a tip-in, and a block - the latter two of which came on back-to-back plays and shifted the momentum in Clemson's favor.

  • Clemson has struggled in the "third quarter" (first 10 minutes after halftime) in their last five games:

Third Quarter Scoring

  • Syracuse made a solid run at a comeback late, but their momentum was stymied when Coach Brownell called a timeout just one tick before the Tigers were whistled for 10-seconds. The announcers were quick to lament the ridiculous rule that restarts the 10-second clock in this event. This silly rule bit Clemson many times in the Purnell era, but here Brownell did a great job knowing the rule and ensuring that it worked to his team's advantage.

  • Overall, great win for Clemson. Now'd we'd like to see Clemson win three of their next four and get up over .500 in ACC play before another wave of excellent teams hits the schedule. An NIT invitation is absolutely a realistic goal, and we'll start tracking it as we get closer to tournament time. The announcers noted Clemson's depth saying "Clemson has shown a lot of weapons today with Grantham, Hall, and Blossomgame." If those three continue to play at this level or if Nnoko gets back to his form from the latter part of last season, this team may just turn the corner and get back to the level of play they found a year ago. While we shouldn't get used to beating Pittsburgh on the road or thumping Syracuse like it's a football game, the future may be brighter than we thought.