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Breaking down the Syracuse - Clemson final play

What happened to allow for the bucket and what the Tigers could have done differently

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

By now, you’ve probably seen the final play in the loss to Syracuse. The defense was simply atrocious. But why? Let’s break down the play.

After Clemson made what seemed to be the go-ahead bucket with seven seconds left, Syracuse made one last ditch effort. John Gillon took the inbounds passed and immediately rushed past the half court logo before being met by the Clemson defense. Clemson then doubled Gillon close to the top of the arc, leaving a trailing Tyler Lydon open.

Gillon passed the ball back to Lydon, who then drove to the paint and forced the defense to collapse. Tyus Battle, who the defense neglected to cover for the entire play, stood in the corner wide open for the play. Lydon makes the pass, and before any Clemson player could close, Battle drains the shot and its game over.

The worst part is that Clemson apparently did not know that Battle was even in the game.

So what could Clemson have done differently?

Clemson should have pressed. If the Tigers applied pressure from the inbounds, then the time it takes Cuse to beat the press and bring the ball up court may have forced deep heave - assuming Syracuse doesn’t immediately break the press of course.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s say Brownell did not press because Syracuse could’ve broken it. Even with this, Clemson made the wrong choice.

If Clemson had simply doubled Gillon from even the half court line they would have disrupted the rhythm of Cuse’s final play.

Instead of Lydon, the trailer, getting the ball in position to drive the lane, forcing the defense to collapse, he is still behind the half court line when Gillon is met by the Clemson defense. Because Gillon has passed half court, he cannot make the pass to Lydon without being called for a backcourt violation.

Even if Lydon gets the ball when he passes half court, time has ticked off the clock and he has to drive from much further away.

While it is impossible to know, after he received Gillon’s pass Lydon likely would not have had time to attack the basket from half court, force the defense to collapse and kick the ball out to Battle.

At that point, he can either pull up for an awkward runner, which would have been well defended because the defense collapsed, or make the pass to Battle sooner.

Honestly, Battle might still make the shot, because he was just so open, but an optimist would argue that Sidy Djitte, the closest man to the ball could have gotten a hand up and closed out on the ball.

Maybe Battle makes it, maybe the pressure forces a miss. Even perfect defense cannot make up for your coach just not knowing who is on the court.