After an embarrassing loss to Duke over the weekend, it’s no secret that every game onward was essentially a must-win. Leg one was a trip to Death Valley against a Clemson team in the midst of a nosedive, losers of four of its last five. But just as most games have gone against highly-touted ACC opponents, the Orange laid an egg in a 91-73 loss to the Tigers.
It started with Syracuse falling behind early. Even though the -13 margin at halftime was the same as last week against Duke, the reason was completely different. The Blue Devils blitzed the Orange, claiming a 21-2 run to blow open a once 19-19 game. Clemson did this in the first ten minutes.
That includes Joe Girard missing his first two threes, Jesse Edwards failing to make a shot the entire half and Quadir Copeland taking the fourth most shots by any player on SU in the first 20 minutes. In other words, the first half couldn’t have gone much worse. Clemson’s Hunter Tyson dropped 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and five threes (one more than Syracuse’s entire team), which further exposed the zone’s inability to stretch out to shooters. In fact, the Tigers eight threes doubled their total amount from last week’s loss to Louisville and those four were throughout the entire contest.
However, the biggest concern was Edwards. Just as the case against Duke, SU’s starting center was doubled by two 6’10+ centers, this time was Ben Middlebrooks and PJ Hall. It clearly impacted the Netherlands native who took only one shot in the first half.
The only saving grace for SU was Judah Mintz, who carried over his 18-point performance from the Duke game into a nine-point first half that included a perfect 2-for-2 from downtown. He instigated a 7-0 Cuse run and kept the game relatively close at 13, knowing that it was an 18-point Clemson lead at one point.
That light of positivity continued into the second frame. Mintz doubled his point total just three minutes into the second half. His three-point shot was falling early (3-of-3) and the freshman had 18 points on only 10 shots with plenty of time to bring the Orange back.
But like games of past, SU’s defense reared its ugly head. Clemson nailed its tenth three-pointer early in the second half, marking the 14th time the Cuse has allowed ten or more triples. It’s also the seventh straight contest where the Orange have allowed nine or more longballs (Clemson hit 14). This will never lead to sustainable success. The Tigers also capitalized with high-low basketball as their best guard and center, Tyson and Hall respectively, combined for 45 points on 67% from the field. Those two, along with Chase Hunter, Brevin Galloway and Ian Schieffelin, scored in double figures for Clemson in a wire to wire victory for the Tigers 20th of the season. Another note on Tyson is he finished the game with his 13th double-double, the second most in the ACC, only behind UNC’s Armando Bacot. All this scoring overshadowed a passing clinic. Clemson recorded a season-high 28 assists (the most in the 13-year tenure of Head Coach Brad Brownell).
Syracuse’s winless streak in Littlejohn Coliseum continues (six years and counting) and SU sits at 16-12, with a 9-8 conference record, on the verge of missing the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Now let’s hone in on Syracuse’s individual players. Judah Mintz dominated most of the game before lack of momentum defensively sent the freshman point guard into a spiral. He finished with 23 points on 53% shooting. Girard looked lost in the first half and couldn’t rally in the second. JG3 managed only 11 points with a measly two triples. Edwards followed up a five-point performance on just three shots with six points on just six shots against the Tigers in meaningful minutes. The senior did finish with a double-double in garbage time (12 points and 10 rebounds).
Next up is arguably the most raucous environment in the ACC. Syracuse travels to Pittsburgh in front of the Oakland Zoo, the Panthers student section that has garnered a plethora of national attention. The Orange look to avenge their lone loss of December against the Panthers while simultaneously seeking to snap a two-game skid.