Orange can’t catch Joe Girard III and the Tigers
Orange can’t catch Girard and the Tigers
Clemson takes down Syracuse 77-68 behind the former SU guard’s efficient shooting during his return to the Dome.
With just over a minute left in the game, Joe Girard III stood at the free throw line on Jim Boeheim Court, ready to seal a victory for his team.
It’s a story that Syracuse fans are all too familiar with; only this time, Girard was icing the game for the opponent.
Clemson took down Syracuse 77-68 behind Girard’s efficient shooting night in his first game back in Syracuse. “It was awesome (to be back)… I loved my time here,” he said after the contest.
Girard finished with a game-high 18 points, missing just one shot. His return to the Loud House was met with a chorus of deafening boos when his name was announced in the starting lineup. When the game began, Girard was jeered every time he touched the ball.
As if the Dome crowd could get any more electric, sophomore forward Maliq Brown capitalized off a bad pass from Clemson’s Ian Schieffelin and slammed an emphatic dunk to put Syracuse on the board first. A fast three minutes of play saw the game tied at 7 heading into the first media timeout.
Here Syracuse began to slow down.
Poor three-point attempts from sophomore forwards Chris Bell and Justin Taylor allowed the Tigers to jump out to a 15-12 lead. With an open look, Girard did something that has been a common occurrence in the Dome: hit an open three for his first points of the game.
Clemson kept scoring while Syracuse did not – two easy baskets inside and another Girard make from deep capped a 14-0 run from the Tigers.
The Clemson big man dominated inside, snatching rebounds from SU players and emphatically blocking any Orange drives. The Tigers go into the break with a 37-24 lead.
Slowly yet surely, Syracuse began to chip away at Clemson’s lead in the second half.
A fadeaway jumper from sophomore J.J. Starling started the half before hitting a three to reignite the Dome crowd. A tough layup from the guard cut the lead to six before Girard hit another three, shushing the fans that once cheered his name.
“I’m an emotional player no matter where I’m at – had it been another crowd or somewhere else that was booing I probably would’ve done the same thing,” Girard said postgame.
With 10 minutes left in the contest, back-to-back mid-range jump shots from Mintz cut the lead to just three points. The game was slipping through Clemson’s fingers.
The two teams continued to trade buckets until Copeland capitalized off a Clemson turnover, storming toward the Tiger’s basket. He was fouled and went to the line with the chance to even the score.
A missed free throw kept the Orange chasing, but the game-tying shot fell, courtesy of a Starling jumper with just over three minutes left in the game.
With the momentum fully in Syracuse’s favor, a Clemson timeout proved crucial. The Tigers moved inside and played through their forwards, putting Clemson back up 68-63.
Syracuse simply stopped doing what made it so successful during its second-half run.
“That loss was entirely on us, our mistakes… we just didn’t execute those last four minutes,” Starling said.
With time running low, it was up to Girard to ice the game from the charity stripe.
“I’ve always kind of been the one that likes to take those big shots,” Girard said. “I love to play in those moments.”
Four straight free throws put the game out of reach for the Orange.
“We battled so well to get back in, but our discipline on both sides of the ball was just not there,” head coach Adrian Autry said.
SU now looks to defeat the last team Clemson beat, No. 3 North Carolina, on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.