Before the basketball season began, we looked at the Clemson Tigers to see how they matched up with the Syracuse Orange. Clemson's defense from last year was highlighted, but it was also noted that the Tigers couldn't really shoot. It's a different year, and a different team, so did solid defense slow Syracuse down enough to make an impact?
Have a look at some key stats from the game to see how the Orange performed, by the numbers:
Game Possessions: 48
Season Average: 61
This is the fewest number of possessions Syracuse has had in a game all season. We've heard that slowing this team down might be one of the keys to defeating them, but that only seems to be partially correct. The games with the next fewest possessions were in the Carrier Dome against Miami (49), at Miami (51), then home against St. Francis and Pittsburgh (both with 53). Even though the Orange won in each instance, a couple of these grinders were down right scary.
So, with the fewest trips down the court, why didn't this contest feel in doubt at all? Pretty simple actually -- Syracuse shot better than its opponents in each game except against Miami and St. Francis. I guess the moral of this story is that you need to do more than slow down the juice to prevent the Orange from rolling.
Game FG%: 44.4%
Season FG%: 46%
While we're on the subject, there wasn't much of a difference between the game and season numbers here, but this is getting highlighted because Clemson was supposed to be one of the stingiest defenses. Clemson's opponents only shoot 38.1%, good for 9th in the country in field goal percentage defense. At the end of the first half, though, Syracuse was shooting 50%. Not only was this a nice change from the Notre Dame game, but shooting like this against a team ranking 1st in this category in the ACC is inspiring.
Game TO%: 10.4%
Season Average: 15.1%
Syracuse is continuing its lovely trend of taking care of the ball in conference play, where they currently average a 13.9% turnover rate. That's nice and all, but seeing the numbers in this category continue to drop gives the warm-and-fuzzies as an indicator of poise and continued improvement.
Rakeem Christmas Fouls
Tyler Ennis FG%
Jerami Grant FT%
Season Average: 69%
Yea, I know he only had two attempts. Going 2-for-2 isn't the reason he's here, though. Grant must have decided that free throws really do matter once conference play started, because he's averaging 73.3% since it began. In non-conference games, he averaged 65.3%.
Now, a concern about this team from here on out is at the post positions given the injury to Coleman and (potentially) Baye Keita. It's a good thing, then, that Grant is making strides here, especially if he's forced to play more minutes at center. He may be undersized compared to opponents at this spot, but hopefully that would help draw more calls in his favor. If that's the case, and he gets to the line with some frequency (and with this delightful percentage), it's just more points on the board. I'll take that.
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