Syracuse flashes balanced attack in 61-53 win over Clemson

first_imgIt was an unfamiliar situation for Syracuse as Marek Dolezaj pushed transition. He pulled up near the top of the key and fired a bounce pass to a cutting Oshae Brissett from the left wing.Brissett caught the pass in stride and slammed it home, throwing his hands up as the Carrier Dome crowd erupted and the Orange took an 11-point first-half lead.In its conference home opener, Syracuse (11-4, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) started hot and never looked back, controlling nearly every aspect of the game in a 61-53 win over Clemson (10-5, 0-2) on Wednesday night. For all but 36 seconds, Syracuse sat in the driver’s seat, never trailing. But unlike other big wins this season where Syracuse’s scoring trio — Tyus Battle, Brissett and Elijah Hughes — ran the offense, the Orange uncharacteristically flashed a balanced attack, one that gave them the momentum it needed to win its second-straight conference matchup.It came just four days after Syracuse’s win on the road against Notre Dame, when head coach Jim Boeheim addressed the media about his big three.“They have to show up,” the 43-year head coach said. “If they don’t we aren’t going to win. We depend on those guys.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhile all three players combined for 35 points against Clemson, shots did not fall as often. Brissett and Battle missed all 10 of their shots from 3 and Hughes shot just 40 percent from the floor.Yet for the first time all year, Syracuse looked comfortable the entire game on its home court. For the second time this season, Frank Howard found himself in double-figures and shot 50 percent from the floor. Dolezaj added 10 points and nailed a pair of 3s, too.“I think (the offense is) really deadly (with four or five scorers),” Dolezaj said, who shot 50 percent from 3. “Usually last year we only had three players who could score. And now we have four, maybe five. We are really getting better.”It gave a glimpse at the potential Syracuse’s offense has, one that wasn’t balanced in any of SU’s nonconference slate, nor its ACC opener at Notre Dame. Brissett, Battle and Hughes accounted for 58 of the Orange’s 72 points in that win.There wasn’t anything different about the offense. SU kept firing 3s despite shooting 23 percent from deep, an area its struggled in all season — outside of Notre Dame. But instead of losing on that precedent, however, SU attacked the paint. The five starters combined for a 62 percent clip from inside the arc, and Bourama Sidibe added a make off the bench.Tony Coffield | Contributing Photographer“No one had a huge night,” said Battle, who finished with 12 points and three assists. “Thought we were all just being aggressive and looking for our shot and trying to make something happen on the offensive end. And that’s how we have to play.”Syracuse’s defense held its own the entire game, stymieing a Clemson offense that entered Wednesday ranked 10th in the country in 2-point field goal percentage, per kenpom.com. Sidibe, just days after making two huge defensive stops against Notre Dame, blocked three shots in 16 minutes.All the while, Paschal Chukwu, SU’s former starting center, sat on the bench in his long-sleeved orange shirt and white headband. Dolezaj and Sidibe rotated in and out for each other. For the first time all season, Chukwu didn’t log a single minute and Boeheim added postgame he was not battling injury.There were times when Clemson had an opportunity to claw its way back into the game, though. Early in the second half, the Tigers made back-to-back 3s to cut the deficit to just two possessions. Soon after, SU flashed a full-court press to combat the Tigers’ slight momentum shift.A Clemson turnover then resulted in a Dolezaj 3 from the right wing. On the next play, another turnover ended up with a Hughes 3 from the top of the key. Each time, the Carrier Dome crowd grew louder.Syracuse eviscerated the Clemson momentum by creating turnovers. The Tigers rank 273th in the country in offensive turnover percentage and turn the ball over 14.6 times per game. By game’s end, Clemson had 17 turnovers. Two came in the opening minutes, with Dolezaj drawing a pair of charges against the Clemson big men. There were strips inside the paint and errant passes trying to push the tempo, trying to beat SU full-court press that formed mid game.“One of the keys when we got (up) six, we pressed,” Boeheim said. “We got two big turnovers and scores and went up 12. The press served as purpose … and that gave us enough separation.”Whatever Clemson tried, Syracuse had an answer for. The Tigers shot a season-worst 35.8 percent from the field and couldn’t figure out how to buck its season-long 3-point woes.While Syracuse’s offense regressed slightly in the second half, the Orange never lost control, staying the course as an eight-point halftime lead turned into an eight-point win.After four nonconference losses, the Orange stumbled into ACC play with added importance on each game. No SU team has ever made the NCAA Tournament with four nonconference losses. Starting off conference play with a pair of wins became necessary for a Syracuse team beginning to find its groove. And through the efforts of its rarely-seen balanced attack on Wednesday, the Orange may have help outside of their scoring trio.“Takes a lot of pressure off our main scorers,” said Brissett. “We have guys that can really come in and make a spark.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 9, 2019 at 10:15 pm Contact Charlie: [email protected] | @charliedisturcolast_img read more