Sitting outside of most bracket projections, Syracuse kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive by upsetting the No. 18 Clemson Tigers 55-52 Saturday afternoon in an Atlantic Coast Conference game before 28,670 fans at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
It was the largest college basketball crowd of the season.
With the score knotted at 50, Clemson’s Elijah Thomas missed two free throws before Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett sank a pair of free throws with 2:27 remaining. Paschal Chukwu, who earlier in the half electrified the crowd with back-to-back blocks on the same possession, made two free throws with 1:30 left to give the Orange a 54-50 advantage.
Marcquise Reed’s layup with 44 seconds left sliced Syracuse’s lead to 54-52, and he grabbed Tyus Battle’s missed shot. But with under four seconds left, Brissett blocked Reed’s driving layup and the Orange regained possession when the ball went out of bounds off a Clemson player. Marek Dolezaj made one of two foul shots to make it 55-52, and Gabe Devoe’s 3-pointer bounced in and out of the rim as time expired.
For the Orange (19-12, 8-10 ACC), it was their first win of the season against a team ranked in the AP Top 25. The Tigers (22-8, 11-7) are also ranked No. 10 in the RPI. Clemson can still clinch a double bye in the ACC tournament depending on the outcome of Saturday’s other league games.
In what could be his final home game for Syracuse, sophomore guard Battle scored a team-high 17 points. Battle, who is expected to attend the NBA Draft Combine, eclipsed 1,000 career points (1,006) and became the fifth sophomore in Syracuse history to reach 1,000 points, joining Gerry McNamara, Billy Owens, Lawrence Moten and Jonny Flynn.
Brissett also scored 17 points for Syracuse with six rebounds. Reed scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, while Thomas scored 18 points with six rebounds.
Battle sank a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight consecutive points for Syracuse in a 14-3 surge at the start of the second half that gave the Orange a 36-30 lead. Battle’s drive after a Clemson turnover boosted Syracuse’s lead to 43-36, but Thomas completed a 3-point play to spark a 7-0 run that tied the score at 43 with about nine minutes remaining.
Reed’s fourth 3-pointer of the second half put Clemson back in front, 48-47, and Thomas kept the Tigers ahead, 49-48, with a rebound basket with 3:51 left.
Frank Howard scored six points and Dolezaj added four in a 12-2 Syracuse spurt that gave the Orange a 14-7 lead midway through the first half. Despite going 10:01 without a field goal, the Tigers regained the lead, 18-16, with an 11-2 run built on 9-of-9 shooting from the foul line.
The Orange also struggled from the floor as they suffered through a 7:40 stretch without a field goal. Clemson scored the final five points of the first half to lead 25-22 at the break. The teams combined to shoot 32.6 percent in the first half (15-for-46) and 17.6 percent from 3-point range (3-for-17).
At halftime, Syracuse retired Lawrence Moten’s jersey No. 21. Moten, who played for the Orange from 1991-1995, remains Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer with 2,334 points.
—Field Level Media