Syracuse, N.Y. — Littlejohn Coliseum has not been a favorite stop for the Syracuse men’s basketball team since joining the ACC.
That trend continued on Saturday with a 78-61 pounding at the hands of the Clemson Tigers.
Syracuse fell to 1-6 in the building with the loss. Syracuse’s only win at Littlejohn came on a last-second three-pointer by Tyus Battle in 2017.
Clemson held Syracuse to its worst offensive half of the season, picked apart the 2-3 zone with ease, rebounded at will and stiff-armed the chance at a much-needed Quadrant 1 win for the Orange.
The Clemson lead did not fall below 17 points after the Tigers built a 39-19 halftime lead.
Saturday’s game started a stretch where three of its next four games are on the road.
The Orange is now 1-5 away from the Carrier Dome this season. Of its seven remaining scheduled games, four are on the road.
With an 0-4 record against Quad 1 opponents, the road to March Madness is starting to get dim for the Orange.
The Dark Side
Flat First Half
The first-half shooting stats for Syracuse may be hazardous to your health.
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Take a deep breath. OK … ready? Here we go.
Syracuse shot a staggering 3-of-25 in the first half against the Tigers.
The Orange missed in the paint, outside the paint, from the 3-point line and from anywhere within the confines of the Littlejohn Coliseum where a shot could be attempted.
It was the fourth time this season Clemson held an opponent to fewer than 20 points at halftime.
“This was the worst offensive first half that I can ever remember us having,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We have to be better on the offensive end.”
Clemson guard Nick Honor had more 3-pointers (4) than Syracuse had total field goals in the first half.
Clemson’s relentless, physical approach completely shut down the Orange attack. Clemson allows just 62.7 points per game.
Tigers star center Aamir Simms locked in on Quincy Guerrier, denying him clean looks at the basket. Guerrier finished with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Clemson’s guards suffocated SU’s shooters. Alan Griffin was held to 2-of-13 shooting. Buddy Boeheim was 3-of-13. Kadary Richmond could not find room to penetrate into the paint, finishing 0-of-3.
Jim Boeheim noted after the game that his guards and wings “went east and west” too much in the first half. That was a testament to Clemson defenders doing an excellent job keeping Orange offensive players in front of them.
Guerrier, Griffin and Boeheim were a combined 8-of-37 against Clemson. They shot 3-of-13 (.230) from the 3-point line.
Syracuse took more shots (60) than Clemson (51) but made just 18 field goals (30%) and scored 20 points at the free-throw line.
“Their defense just overwhelmed us in the first half,” said Jim Boeheim. “They got in front of us and we weren’t aggressive. We made a couple of steals when the game was close, but we didn’t convert. If we make some layups early on and hang in there, it’s a 10- or 12-point deficit that you have a chance to overcome.”
It was the second consecutive game Syracuse struggled out of the gate in an extreme fashion. Last Sunday, it was on defense when the Orange allowed 47 first-half points to NC State.
A pattern is developing, as a three-point shooter is sniping the Orange early and putting the defense on its heels.
Clemson’s Nick Honor made four first-half 3s against the Orange with three of those four coming in the game’s first five minutes. NC State’s Braxton Beverly had three 3-point shots in the first 10 minutes of last Sunday’s win over the Wolfpack.
All told, Syracuse is doing itself no favors by digging such deep first-half holes.
Clemson, which entered the game ranked last in the ACC in scoring and field goal percentage, had one of its best offensive outputs of the season against Syracuse.
The Tigers shot 27-of-51 (53%) against the Orange. Clemson was 10-of-23 (43%) from beyond the arc.
Clemson was able to empty the bench on Saturday. Ten of 11 Tigers scored against the Orange. Clemson’s 78 points were its second-highest total of the season.
Honor drained four straight 3-pointers early in the game. He was 5-of-8 overall from 3-point range against the Orange.
Sims, Clemson’s 6-foot-9, 245-pound star forward, scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards.
Clyde Trapp had a career-high 11 assists, tying the highest assist mark in the ACC this season.
Boeheim defended Syracuse’s defense during the week in media appearances, citing SU’s 3-point defensive percentage (29%) that led the ACC and saying SU’s rebounding faults were a bigger issue than the flaws in the 2-3 zone defense.
He was singing a different tune on Saturday.
“We were no good on offense tonight,” Jim Boeheim said. “We have to play well on offense to have a chance to win games. We’re not going to win games with our defense.”
The pattern held for Syracuse: It has been out-rebounded in all six of its losses this season.
The Tigers throttled the Orange on the boards, 42-25. The defensive rebounding mark of 31-12 in favor of Clemson was especially noteworthy. The Tigers vacuumed up Orange missed shots, often giving Syracuse just one shot per possession.
Boeheim has said often in recent weeks that Syracuse’s rebounding issues are the biggest reason for its losses.
Getting out-rebounded by 17 only compounds that issue.
“Rebounding has been a problem and will probably continue to be a problem,” Boeheim said after the game.
The Sunny Side
Not much to report in the Sunny Side column after the way Syracuse lost to Clemson on Saturday, but two things are worth noting.
1. Joe Girard led Syracuse with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Girard was aggressive in attacking the rim and looking for his shot in the second half and was a big reason the Orange offense had 42 second-half points.
Girard needed the boost after a string of disappointing offensive outputs. Let’s see if he can put one together when a game is competitive and not out of reach.
2. Bourama Sidibe was back in the lineup for the Orange, returning after nearly 11 weeks out of action with a knee injury.
Sidibe didn’t put much in the boxscore other than four fouls, but his presence is a welcome one with Syracuse’s rebounding and defensive issues. If Sidibe can give the Orange anything productive, even only in 10-12 minute bursts, it will be a big help.
“It’s just hard. He’s tried everything he could,” Boeheim said of Sidibe’s return. “His knee’s sore. It’s hard to play this game when you can’t run and jump. That’s his game. He’s doing everything he can to do that. He just hasn’t done anything in weeks. I’m not sure he’s going to be able to do much. It’s been a long time and we’ve got two, three weeks to go.”
This, That and the Other Thing
- Clemson has a 7-4 lead in the all-time series with Syracuse.
- Syracuse’s 19 points marked its lowest output in any half this season.
- Syracuse forced 20 turnovers, including 13 steals, but could collect only 12 points off the Clemson mistakes.
- Kadary Richmond had a career-best six steals against the Tigers. His previous best (5) was set at Rutgers and at home against Miami.
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