Men’s basketball grabs Top-25 win, beats Clemson 55-52
Men's basketball upsets Clemson in home finale
The Syracuse Orange (19-12, 8-10 ACC) held its own late in the final game of the regular season, defeating number 18 ranked Clemson 55-52.
“We were due for one of these. We play with so much heart, we’re always in every game,” Battle said.
An early bucket for Clemson guard Marcquise Reed forced Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim into a timeout. Brissett grabbed his first points immediately after with a drive to the hoop and a caress of the ball off the glass.
The last few games saw role players struggle to take shots, but that seemed not to be the case in this game. Freshman forward Marek Dolezaj faked a shot, dribbled to the hoop, spun and scored to grab his first points of the game.
“They didn’t guard me. I was wide open all the time. I tried to be aggressive and make some plays,” Dolezaj said.
Dolezaj continued to shoot during the first half, finding open looks within 12 feet of the hoop. A three in the corner from junior guard Frank Howard gave Syracuse a 13-7 lead, its largest in the first half.
The Tigers, coming off a 78-63 win over Florida State, clawed themselves back into the game. Elijah Thomas hit four consecutive free throws, then Anthony Oliver II made three from the line to cut the Syracuse lead to two.
Thomas, who finished the game perfect from the field and made his first six free throws, was a big factor in the middle of the Syracuse zone.
“Thomas hurt us inside. He was very physical down in the post,” Boeheim said.
Battle scored his first points of the game from beyond the arc to end seven minutes without a Syracuse field goal. The teams would trade baskets going into halftime, where Clemson held a three-point lead, 25-22.
The Orange offense led the team early on to begin the second half. Two offensive rebounds gave Battle a chance to double his points total, which is exactly what he did. Battle scored five more, a three and a jump shot. His fourth off the basket was the sophomore’s 1,000 point for Syracuse.
Battle remained humble after this accomplishment, reflecting on the importance of the team victory over his personal achievement.
“I didn’t even think about it or anything like that. I didn’t score 1,000 points until my senior year of high school, so to get it in my sophomore year is pretty special,” Battle said.
Boeheim praised his guard for getting the team back into the game.
“Tyus got us back in the game, making two or three big threes right away,” Boeheim said.
With 12 minutes remaining in the game, Syracuse got into foul trouble. Centers Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe both had four fouls, forcing Boeheim to rely on his junior center Chukwu to play smart down the stretch. Chukwu played the final nine minutes and 13 seconds on four fouls in a tie game. Chukwu limited Thomas to two points during that stretch.
Thomas’ final points gave Clemson a one-point lead, 50-49 with under four minutes remaining. Brissett grabbed an offensive rebound on a Battle three and was fouled on the follow-up. He scored one, making it tied at 50.
Empty possessions ensued for both teams until Brissett again returned to the line, scoring both to increase the Syracuse lead to two. Shelton Mitchell had a chance to tie the game, but an offensive foul by Aamir Simms brought Chukwu to the line.
The junior sank both free throws to make it a four-point game just for Reed to cut the lead in half.
Battle had the ball with thirty seconds remaining and tried to ice the game. His shot missed, allowing Clemson the chance to tie or take the lead. Reed drove to the basket, but his shot was blocked by Brissett. On the next possession, Dolezaj went to the line with the chance to make it a four-point game with seconds remaining. He scored his first free throw, but missed his second.
“Make free throws. I made first, I tried to make second but I didn’t make it,” Dolezaj said.
It didn’t matter. Gabe Devoe‘s sixth three-point attempt went around the rim and out, falling in Chukwu’s hands and confirming a Syracuse upset.
“People have been making half court shots on us, so it’s probably a bit of a surprise that ball didn’t go in,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse opens the ACC tournament on Tuesday with a game versus Wake Forest. The Orange will be the 11th seed in the tournament.