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Clemson 91, Syracuse 73: Orange defense unravels in blowout road defeat

Clemson eviscerated Syracuse’s 2-3 zone en route to a 18-point romp.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (16-12, 9-8) fell on the road to the Clemson Tigers (20-8, 12-5) on Wednesday night, unraveling in a 91-73 defeat. Syracuse saw its 2-3 zone dissected as Clemson shot 52.3% from the floor including 38.9% from deep on 14-made threes.

The game was seemingly over as quick as it started. Syracuse reverted to its tendency to start slow as the 2-3 zone gave up open threes—two to Chase Hunter—before the first media timeout. The Orange trailed 13-3 early and would never lead in this game.

Quadir Copeland made a quick appearance as the first substitution off the bench. He had a few bright moments, including a transition layup. Still, Clemson continued to dismantle the 2-3 zone as Hunter Tyson caught rhythm. His fourth three midway through the first half gave his team a 25-16 lead. Syracuse called timeout to regroup.

The pause in action mattered not as Clemson tacked on six straight to extend the lead 31-16, causing Jim Boeheim to make a change at the top of the zone. Justin Taylor saw his first minutes late in the first half and played the two guard as Girard went to the bench.

Syracuse showed signs of life after a pair of Maliq Brown free throws as Judah Mintz made a mid-range jumper and buried a triple to fuel a 7-0 run. Syracuse trailed 38-27 at the under four minute media timeout.

The Orange couldn’t string together stops to edge closer, however. Clemson took a 45-32 at the half on the back of 8-20 shooting from outside and a 21-12 rebounding edge. Mintz and Girard each had nine points at the half, but Jesse Edwards—who struggled to establish deep post position—scored just one point and took only shot in the first half.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the break, Clemson continued to slice and dice the Syracuse defense as Brevin Galloway made back to back threes. Mintz tried to carry Syracuse on offense by making a triple after Edwards commanded a double-team down low. He was also fouled on a three point attempt and knocked down another mid-range jumper to keep things close initially.

But the Syracuse offense devolved into one-on-one and failed to sustain any sort of long-term success. As the offense stalled, Clemson continued to torch the zone as Hunter and Alex Hemenway made the 11th and 12th threes of the night for the Tigers to break the game open. Clemson led 64-44 with 14:17 remaining.

Syracuse tried to make adjustments from there, but failed to alter the theme of this game in any meaningful way. Boeheim turned to the press out of desperation and went to a 1-3-1 in the half-court. The result was the same: Hunter buried another three. Clemson amassed a 21 point lead.

Symir Torrence made his first appearance of the game in the second half. Copeland and Mounir Hima were given more run. Taylor returned to the lineup, this time as a three. None of this seemed to matter. The personnel changed but the results were the same. Clemson continued to score at will without resistance.

The Orange continued to press down the stretch, but ultimately Clemson’s lead was too deep of a hole for Syracuse to climb out of. Clemson cruised to victory in a convincing way.

Syracuse shot 27-57 from the floor and 7-18 from three while Clemson shot 34-65 including 14-36 from deep. The Tigers won the rebounding battle 38-28 and edged Syracuse in paint points 38-26. Clemson had a season-high 28 assists on its 34 made baskets.

Next up

Syracuse hits the road to take on Pittsburgh this Saturday. That game tips at 5 p.m. from the Petersen Events Center and airs on the ACC Network.