There isn’t a whole lot that you can say about Sunday afternoon. It happened. Just ask Jay Ingles who had the misfortune of having to recap one of the worst losses in Clemson Basketball history. (We love you Jay) But one thing that you can say, is that blowout losses like that can bring out a team’s true character. Clemson managed to be competitive, but would throw away (literally) a chance at a badly needed home win as they fell to the Syracuse Orange 82-82, thanks to a buzzer beater three-pointer from a true freshman. Here is how it all unfolded.
Clemson would start out the game with a sense of urgency and a solid offensive game plan. The Tigers attacked the zone from the inside out utilizing Blossomgame from the baseline and Thomas in the paint and passing out to the perimeter. Clemson would open the game with an 11-5 run with three pointers from Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes off of post passes. Syracuse couldn’t seem to find the basket early, starting 2-of-7 from the field as the Clemson defense seemed to get the message about the importance of their effort on the defensive side of the ball.
As the first half progressed, it began to develop into a two-person game. Avry Holmes continued his red-hot shooting, starting 3-for-3 from the field, including 2 three pointers as the Tigers were clicking on all cylinders early. Syracuse followed the recipe that has led to its recent success in the past 4 games, as Andrew White III continued to shine. White hit consecutive three pointers to trim the Tiger lead to 24-17 with 8 minutes remaining. Despite shooting less than 30% from the field, White managed to keep the Tiger lead to less than 10 points.
The teams would continue to trade baskets for a remainder of the first half with Syracuse slowly chipping away at the Clemson lead with three pointers, including a set of three free throws by John Gillon after being fouled in the act by Shelton Mitchell. Clemson would go cold from behind the arc and a three pointer from White would give Syracuse its first lead of the game, 35-34 with two minutes remaining in the first half and would follow with yet another 3-pointer as White would score 14 of the Orange first 38 points. Marquise Reed would hit a pair of free throws to end the first half and Clemson would take a 40-38 lead into the locker room.
Clemson entered the half shooting 16-of-30 from the floor (53.3%) but faltered from behind the arc for most of the first half, shooting only 3-of-11. Most importantly for Clemson on the defensive end was their ability to defend without fouling. The Tigers committed only 4 team fouls in the first half and managed to keep Syracuse off the free throw line. Syracuse managed to shoot 14-of-30 (46.7%) from the floor with 4 three-pointers from Andrew White III, who finished with 14 points in the first half and was well on his way to his fifth consecutive 20-point game.
Clemson came out in the second half and some old demons seemed to follow them out of the locker room. Clemson began to turn the ball over and Syracuse began to dominate the glass with 8 offensive rebounds leading to 6 points early in the 2nd half. A Shelton Mitchell three-pointer from the top of the key ended Clemson’s three-point drought at 6 consecutive misses and gave Clemson a 55-54 lead.
Syracuse managed to find a new source of offense in the second half. After being held scoreless in the first half, Taurean Thompson managed to score 12 points in the first 7 minutes of the second half as he continued to punish the Tigers on the offensive glass. After failing to separate themselves from Syracuse in the beginning of the game, the Tigers would look to build a lead in the 2nd half. The Tigers used an 8-2 run capped by a mid-range jumper from Gabe DeVoe as the Tigers took a 4 point lead.
It was time for Jaron Blossomgame to take over. Blossomgame would score 6 consecutive points for the Tigers in a 10-0 run capped with a monster alley oop, extending the Tiger lead to 61-53. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they went cold from behind the arc, and Syracuse would use a 6-0 run to cut into the Tigers lead once again to cut the lead down to 2, at 70-68. Donte Grantham would answer the call with a big three with the shot clock expiring to extend the lead back to 5.
After a tremendous job in the first half, the Tigers began to foul on nearly every defensive possession down the stretch allowing Syracuse to make it a one possession game. This one would come down to the final minute and two crucial Clemson turnovers would end up costing them the game. After both teams, couldn’t manage to find the basket, Sidy Djitte ripped down the defensive rebound off a Tyus Battle miss. Djitte would turn and throw the ball right into John Gillon’s chest, who found White III who nailed a three pointer to give Syracuse its first lead in over 10 minutes at 77-76. Avry Holmes would immediately answer on the next possession with a three pointer of his own to give Clemson the 79-77 lead. After a defensive stop, shades of Alabama from last season returned. Donte Grantham went to inbound the ball, and with 2 timeouts remaining, forced a bad pass to Shelton Mitchell resulting in a turnover. Tyler Lydon was fouled and calmly nailed both free throws.
After a Clemson timeout, they went down the court with intentions of winning the game. After a nice write up from coach Brad Brownell, Marcquise Reed found Donte Grantham who managed to hit a jumper from the paint to redeem himself for his earlier turnover and hit what appeared to be a game winning basket with only 7 second remaining to give the Tigers an 81-79 lead. But it just isn’t that easy in Tiger Town. With 7 seconds remaining, Syracuse would rush up the court and Tyler Lydon would hit an open Tyus Battle in the corner who would rip the hearts out of the Tiger faithful in Littlejohn Coliseum as he nailed a three-pointer as time expired to give Syracuse the thrilling 82-81 victory.
The Tigers, who have now lost 7 of their last 9 contests, had a solid offensive night led by Jaron Blossomgame who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added four rebounds. Donte Grantham, Shelton Mitchell, Avry Holmes and Gabe DeVoe would join Blossomgame in double figures as Clemson shot 53.7% from the floor and 9-of-22 (40.9%) from behind the arc. The downfall for Clemson was the same as it has been all season long. Clemson was outrebounded 33 to 24 and allowed 12 offensive rebounds. Clemson also reached the bonus with just over 8 minutes remaining in the second half allowing Syracuse to score from the foul line for a majority of the later minutes.
Syracuse played only 7 players on the night and were led in scoring by White III who finished with 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting and hit 5 three pointers. Tyler Lydon added 17 points, Taurean Thompson added 14 (all in the second half) and John Gillon rounded out the double figure scorers with 13 of his own. Syracuse managed to shoot 29-of-57 from the floor (50.9%) and made 10-of-26 three pointers.
The Tigers will return to action as they travel to Durham to take on the 18th ranked Blue Devils on Saturday. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for all of your Clemson Basketball coverage.