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Clemson Smothers Syracuse, 78-61

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Clemson Basketball is getting it back together.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Andersen Independent Mail-USA TODAY NETWORK

Folks like myself who put out a missing persons report on the Clemson basketball team following the COVID-19 pause might finally be able to retract it. The Tigers played another high level defensive game against a potent Syracuse attack with 5 guys averaging double figures to cruise to victory Saturday afternoon at home. The Tigers also rolled up its second highest point total of the season as different guys took turns lighting up the Syracuse zone. There is a lot to be happy about when you consider the team has put two fairly dominant victories together consecutively over teams inside KenPom’s top 50.

Clemson’s defense was clinical in the first half, holding Syracuse to just 3 made field goals while racing out to a 39-19 halftime advantage. Nick Honor carried the offense early, breaking out of an extended shooting slump to bury 4 first half triples. Aamir Simms then took a turn leading the offense, mostly from the high post position. The maestro quietly behind a lot of this was Clyde Trapp, who would finish with a career-high 11 assists. The only blemish was a few too many turnovers, but otherwise you couldn’t argue with the offensive attack and efficiency to compliment a tenacious defensive effort.

Clemson also dominated on the glass 39-19, building off the tremendous rebounding effort against UNC. The Tigers would go 10-23 on 3-pointers while holding the Orange to just 5-20. This was definitely a reminder that this team is capable of being at the top end of the league when it plays defense with the type of energy we have seen the last two outings.

Nick Honor finished with 5 made 3’s and 15 points, Aamir Simms put up a double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and the Tigers bench outscored Syracuse’s 34-4. All the things you fell in love with early in the season were evident in this game. It was also another satisfying L to slap on Jim Boeheim, who infamously slammed Clemson’s rural setting several years ago as the Orange transitioned into the ACC.

On Friday, Clemson hosts Georgia Tech before hitting the road for a crucial three game stretch. GT was one of the teams who embarrassed Clemson after the COVID pause, so it will be an excellent test of the growth of the team since then in matchup #2. GT’s guards have been a serious problem for Clemson the last two seasons, so the Tigers will need the type of spirited effort we have seen during this 3 out of 4 game stretch. Kudos to the staff and team for digging out of a mental hole and remembering that this team can beat good people and play some good basketball.