Syracuse chokes Clemson with defense in key Carrier Dome win (Donna Ditota’s quick punches)


Syracuse, NY – Syracuse played what we assume is their last men’s regular-season game of the season on Wednesday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.

The opponent, Clemson, looked vaguely familiar. The Orange lost to the Tigers 78-61 at Clemson on February 6. This time around, Syracuse would do well to avoid the 3-for-25 start of the game.

As it turned out, neither team was able to take shots at the beginning of this game. By halftime, SU was leading 25-22 and it was not so much a pacing issue as a “miss” issue. But the score recovered in a relatively large way in the second half. Final score: Syracuse 64, Clemson 54.

This is what happened:

This was perhaps Syracuse’s best defense effort of the season. Orange forwards in general, and Alan Griffin in particular, were so active in the middle and near the basket that all that waving movement seemed to demoralize the Tigers, who were struggling to find ways to score.

That said, Clemson broke off an extreme dry streak from the 3-point line to do plenty early in the second half. Those shots kept the Tigers close. (They started 4 of 6 from 3 in the second half.)

But then Kadary Richmond, bad knee and all, came into the game and the 3 balls for Clemson were a little more difficult to manufacture. When all was said and done, the Tigers scored 54 points and shot 33.9 percent from the field.

The Orange kept Clemson’s guards out of the painted area and limited the way the Tigers attacked the area.

La Naranja started the second half in an 11-0 run mostly courtesy of Alan Griffin and his three 3-pointers.

Syracuse got some of those shots in transition, which is a much easier way to score on Clemson than it does in the middle court. That jet from the second half allowed SU to create a separation and then hit the cruise control the rest of the way.

Orange edged Clemson 19-11 on transition opportunities.

Talking about griffin, it was the whole basketball package on Wednesday. He made shots. He defended. Bounced. He was engaged and active throughout the game.

He spotted a transition opportunity from Clemson, running to the corner to disrupt a possible three-point shot. He drained a corner 3 under extreme pressure from the left corner with 3:23 left in the game. That triple pushed SU’s lead to 62-49. I can’t stress enough how difficult that shot was to make, from the angle that he did it.

He finished with a game high of 22 on 6 of 14 shots. He was 6 of 12 from the 3-point line. And he caught 10 rebounds.

The first half was a) the result of a great defense or b) the result that no one could take a shot or c) a combination of both.

I’m leaning toward C. SU played perhaps the best defense he’s played all season in that half. He denied penetration by Clemson’s guard. He kept the ball out of the way, where the dangerous Aamir Simms sometimes roamed on Wednesday. Clemson was 7 of 31 overall and 4 of 16 from 3-point range.

Syracuse took 18 shots from the 3-point line in the first half. Orange were a bit concerned about their inability to go north-south over the Tigers (Clemson had the same problem against SU). But Clemson is an excellent defensive team; perhaps the best of the ACC. Syracuse shot 7 of 28 overall and 5 of 18 from 3-point range.

An endorsement for the basketball game was not. But it was interesting to see how those two defenses work, if you like that kind of thing. The odd stat from that first half came in paint points, which Clemson led 6-2.

Syracuse, which was crushed on the glass at Clemson, he held firm on the boards Wednesday. El Naranja rebounded the Tigers 24-22 at halftime. Clemson went big at times with PJ Hall and Aamir Simms there at the same time, but Orange did a good job, particularly from the front points, competing on the glass.

Alan Griffin grabbed eight rebounds in the first half. Marek Dolezaj took seven, although technically they all came from center point.

Final rebound count: Syracuse 39, Clemson 37. Griffin with 10, Dolezaj with nine and Guerrier with eight.

Sims, Clemson’s senior forward, he’s as muscular as any ACC player. Has experience. You can score inside and out. And it bounces.

In the first half on Wednesday, he was 1 out of 6. SU was really aware of him in the zone. The Tigers used him early in the middle post, then traded him to the top of the circle. But they never found a way to use it effectively against a zone in the first half that was active and interested in containing it.

Sims also found problems with fouls (he was protecting Quincy Guerrier). In the end, he scored six points, grabbed eight rebounds and wasn’t a huge factor for Clemson.

This and that: SU announced just before the game that Marek Dolezaj was playing with a sore finger on his left hand (does not shoot) and that Kadary Richmond’s right knee was sore. Both players suffered those injuries in the North Carolina game and both played Clemson. … Buddy Boeheim scored 17 and added five rebounds. … Joe Girard had a nice afternoon. Seven assists, seven points, zero turnovers. … It was Aging Day for Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe and walkons Chris LaValle and Nick Giancola. SU prepared a small ceremony to honor the boys, but without the fans it was a bit anticlimactic and a bit sad for them.

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