SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A little known fact coming into Sunday night’s game; Syracuse had never beaten Clemson in men’s basketball. The Orange were 0-2 all-time, but had never played the Tigers on their home floor.
Both of those changed inside the Carrier Dome as Syracuse (23-0, 10-0) held off Clemson (15-7, 6-4) with a 57-44 win.
Syracuse faced their share of adversity in this one, despite the seemingly comfortable margin. The Tigers held their own for much of the first half, keeping the game close throughout. But as has been the case during the 2013-14 campaign, Syracuse had answers when they were needed.
The Orange held Clemson scoreless over the last 4:22 of the first half, going on a 9-0 run that led to a 31-22 advantage heading into intermission. Trevor Cooney drilled a three to start the run and C.J. Fair finished it with a layup to end the half. Jerami Grant added a pair of layups as well.
”C.J. got off to a really good start and got us going,” head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game. “They were very patient which is what people are going to do for the most part. I thought our defense was good and our patience was good. We didn’t get rebounds two or three times that we needed to. I thought overall, we did a good job on both ends of the court.”
Towards the end of the first half, Baye Keita landed awkwardly on his right leg, spraining his knee. He went to the locker room and did not come back into the game. Keita did, however, spend the second half on the bench. Boeheim did not have an update after the game.
Clemson cut the Syracuse lead to 42-37 midway through the final frame, before Rakeem Christmas picked up his fourth foul. Boeheim was forced to go small, moving Grant to the center spot while Tyler Roberson and Michael Gbinije took Jerami’s spot on the wing.
”He’s practiced in there a couple times this year,” Boeheim said. “He’s pretty long in there. I think we can get by with him in there.”
The Tigers immediately attacked inside, trying to take advantage of the Orange’s lack of a true center. Syracuse responded with an 8-3 run despite the odd lineup, and were not tested by Clemson again. Fair had four of Syracuse’s points during the key stretch, and Grant was solid on the boards.
Syracuse forced four turnovers over the last 10-minutes of the game, holding Clemson to 2-9 during that stretch.
The win helped Syracuse match the longest winning streak in school history at 23, and gave the Orange their best start in conference play in school history with the 10 wins.
Syracuse held Clemson to just 34% shooting from the field and forced 13 turnovers. The Orange converted those into 16 points on the other end. Despite their foul trouble on the inside Syracuse dominated points in the paint, 32-14.
The Orange shot 44% from the field against the nation’s top scoring defense which was holding teams to just 38%.
Fair led Syracuse with 19 points on 8-13 shooting, while adding seven rebounds. Jerami Grant contributed 12 points and eight boards, while Trevor Cooney poured in 11 points and three steals. Tyler Ennis only had six points, but dished out five assists.
Syracuse has a tough one up next, as they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers on Wednesday night at 7pm eastern.