Syracuse Basketball: Orange withstands late rally to conquer Clemson

The Syracuse basketball squad weathered a thunderous comeback attempt by the Clemson Tigers but managed to gut out a 61-53 win.

The SU hoops outfit built up a 15-point lead in the second half of its duel with Clemson on Wednesday evening. The more than 17,000 fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome could sense a relatively easy triumph.

Not so fast. The Tigers went on a 10-1 run to slash the deficit to just six points with about four minutes to go. However, Clemson couldn’t claw all the way back.

Although not a pretty performance, Syracuse did just enough to defeat the Tigers by a final count of 61-53, running the home crew’s consecutive-success streak to four.

The past three times that these two programs had met, the combined margin of victory amounted to a whopping five points. With that as a backdrop, it is a tad surprising that the ‘Cuse (11-4, 2-0) managed to collect an eight-point conquest.

Then again, given that the Orange raced to a 15-point edge after intermission, I’m honestly a bit disappointed that SU had to slightly sweat this encounter out.

The flow of Wednesday night’s game proved ugly, to say the least. Neither group shot the ball well from the field as a whole, the charity stripe, or the 3-point line. Syracuse and Clemson (10-5, 0-2) grabbed virtually the same number of rebounds, and both units committed way too many turnovers.

A saving grace for the ‘Cuse is that it generated a balanced scoring attack, with each of its starters chipping in a minimum of nine points. Redshirt sophomore wing Elijah Hughes paced the Orange with 14 points, and he connected on three shots from downtown.

Another positive is how SU’s vaunted 2-3 zone fared, limiting the Tigers to about 22 points below their season average of 75. At this juncture in the 2018-19 campaign, many college-basketball pundits view both Syracuse and Clemson as on the NCAA Tournament bubble, so the ‘Cuse prevailing in Central New York is imperative.

The main component of this affair that really irritated me is when the Orange seized control, but then it began to play stall ball. It’s totally fine to milk the clock, so to speak. Yet on multiple possessions, Syracuse wouldn’t get into any sort of rhythm on offense, and the consequence of that came in the form of awful shot selection or unforced errors.

Still, in the end, a win is a win, and SU definitely needed to have this one to maintain its momentum. The ‘Cuse will seek to make it five victories in a row when it hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday.