Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 3, 2018 at 6:23 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Syracuse hadn’t scored in nearly eight minutes and Clemson attacked, hungry to land a final blow to the once-sizeable deficit it had reduced to one bucket.Clemson redshirt junior guard Marcquise Reed had stung the Orange repeatedly throughout the second half, with five 3-pointers and a flurry of short jumpers, and he had the chance to finally tie the game up again. The 6-foot-3 Reed maneuvered his way inside until he found Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu blocking his way, but the 7-foot-2 center was one foul away from spectating the final seconds. Reed tried to draw a foul as he shot, but SU freshman forward Oshae Brissett flew in from stage left and managed to get a hand on it.“I just wanted to be there,” Brissett said. “We have Paschal contending, but Reed can move around. He’s a great scorer, so I needed to be there to help out.”Brissett’s block, late free-throw shooting and a rimmed-out Clemson half-court heave gave the Orange what star guard Tyus Battle called “the biggest win we’ve had all year.” The Orange didn’t score a field goal for nearly the final nine minutes, but Syracuse’s (19-12, 8-10 Atlantic Coast) defense held fast to close out the regular season with an upset of No. 18 Clemson (22-8, 11-7), 55-52, on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome.The victory came in front of a similar crowd, record in numbers and raucous in volume, to what it had played in front of two Wednesdays ago against then-No. 10 North Carolina. This time, though, Syracuse finished the job and started a long trek to avoid taking consecutive trips to the National Invitation Tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. Brissett called it the marquee win Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament resume has so far lacked, but the Orange begins its last shot to impress the Selection Committee on Tuesday night against Wake Forest at the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, New York.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We were about as challenged offensively as you can be,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “We just were able to make enough plays, get some rebounds, didn’t turn it over today, that was a big factor. … That was just a tough defensive game.”Beating Clemson not only re-energized Syracuse’s postseason campaign, but it also served as a barometer for how the Orange hopes to get there. When asked what the Orange’s best chance was at making the Tournament, Battle quickly said, “Play defense.”He added: “We win off our defense. We hold a team to 60-something points and that’s enough in most games.”Saturday afternoon, Clemson did what many teams have done this season and tried to attack the Orange’s 2-3 zone through the high post and down low with its big men. Midway through the second half, Syracuse center Bourama Sidibe was whistled for a foul on a layup and put the Orange in a precarious position. He and the Orange’s other center, Chukwu, both had four fouls that led to the Tigers attacking relentlessly inside.Though the Orange won the rebounding battle (36 to 33) and protected the offensive glass (allowing nine boards there), Clemson’s two bigs, Elijah Thomas and Aamir Simms bully-balled. The pair rough-housed their way to nearly half the team’s points and complemented Reed’s game-high 21.But the timidity Syracuse has shown at times when key players like Chukwu have four fouls disappeared against Clemson. That was by design, Chukwu said.“Coach Boeheim told me, ‘You have four fouls, but don’t let that discourage you,’” Chukwu said. “‘Marek (Dolezaj) or Bourama can step in the middle (if you foul out).’ I had four fouls, but I tried to play like I had zero, because I was fighting down there and that’s all I could do.”Late in the second half, with the score tied at 45, Thomas stole the ball from Battle and Clemson broke up the court. Tigers senior guard Gabe DeVoe ended up with the ball and rose through the air trying to give his team its first lead in more than 10 minutes.Chukwu nearly pinned the ball off the left side of the backboard and the Carrier Dome erupted. Chukwu fell on the floor. Clemson grabbed an offensive rebound and worked the ball left to right and it ended up in DeVoe’s hands as he drove in. Chukwu stood up. DeVoe noticed and tried a floater. Chukwu swatted the shot like he was spiking a volleyball and the Dome roared to a standing ovation. The Tigers grabbed the ball but threw it out of bounds seconds later.“That second block, everyone went crazy,” Chukwu said, smiling after the game. “I was able to feel that energy.”Boeheim added: “We needed those plays from him. He started out the game good and he finished with those. We need him to be more effective defensively.”On the next possession, Brissett hit two free throws to give the Orange a lead it would never relinquish. And, as everything did Saturday, it came down to Syracuse on defense. This time, the Orange made all the plays it needed to. Comments
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