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Syracuse 64, Clemson 54: Orange ball out in second half to defeat Tigers

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The second half offensive showcase makes up for the horrific first half.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange and Clemson Tigers started off with an abysmal offensive showing in the first half. However, Syracuse poured on the scoring in the second half and outscored Clemson 39-32 in the second half to cruise to a 64-54 victory that potential closes out the Orange regular season.

The first half of the game was dominated by one overwhelming topic: bad offense. Both teams were unbelievably cold throughout the first half. The teams only hit seven shots each, with the lone difference coming from Syracuse hitting two more free throws and one more three. Clemson was 0-for-7 from deep to start the game.

The main reason for Syracuse’s struggles from the floor can be traced to the last time these two teams played back on February 6. Orange shooters could not find any space to take an open shot against the tight man defense that the Tigers always use. As such, Syracuse settled for contested jump shots, and SU reverted back to that habit for the first half against the Tigers. The Orange were only 25% from the floor in the first half.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As bad as that shooting was from Syracuse, Clemson’s shooting was worse. The Tigers were only 22.6 from the floor, and Clemson was getting good looks from mid and long range as the Syracuse zone continued to rotate slowly. The Tigers just flat-out missed shots.

Part of the reason for the lackluster shooting effort from both teams was that neither roster could get going underneath the basket. Clemson only had six points in the paint while Syracuse only had two points in the paint. The finishing at the rim was poor from both teams.

A player that could’ve helped Syracuse with its passing and finishing at the rim would’ve been Kadary Richmond, but he was still suffering the effects of the right knee injury that he aggravated towards the end of the UNC game two days ago. Richmond only played seven minutes in the first half and while he did pick up three of SU’s six assists in the first 20 minutes, he didn’t look entirely comfortable on the court.

Syracuse came out of the second half locker room rolling and on fire. Alan Griffin started everything with a couple of quick catch-and-shoot threes and the passing significantly improved to give Syracuse a huge amount of life. The Orange went on a 15-2 run over the first 3:42 of the second half: a period of time that saw Clemson coach Brad Brownell burn two timeouts.

Part of that run came from Syracuse’s improved defense turning into offense as seven of those 15 points came off of turnovers. 12 of the 15 points came during fastbreak opportunities. Syracuse struggled to convert turnovers into points the last time these two teams played, but the Orange ran the court well out of the locker room to establish a ton of momentum.

The main reason for that second half surge was Griffin’s hot shooting. He started setting himself up for more catch-and-shoot opportunities from range. Joe Girard found him quickly and Griffin popped his shot immediately for the bucket. 19 of his 22 points came in the second half alone to lead all scorers.

Clemson didn’t go away quietly as the Tigers started to heat up from the three point line as well. Al-Amir Dawes and Alex Hemenway started to hit from range, which forced Jim Boeheim to bring in Richmond even with his ailing knee. Fortunately for Syracuse, his knee had enough to help limit the Tigers on offense and deliver strong drives to the rim to force fouls.

Richmond wasn’t the Orange player to find success in the paint as Syracuse started to finish around the rim. After only scoring 2 points in the paint to begin the half, the Orange rattled off 18 points in paint in the second half. Buddy Boeheim was the main benefactor of this switch as his dribble penetration started to work. He finished the game with 17 points.

Barring any unforeseen schedule additions between now and the ACC tournament, Syracuse finishes the regular season with a 15-8 record and a 9-7 ACC record. The Orange improve to an impressive 13-1 at the Carrier Dome. While the lack of quadrant one wins and a 2-7 record on the road means that SU’s tournament chances are not high, there’s an opportunity for Syracuse to play itself into the tournament with a good showing in the ACC tournament.