Marcquise Reed scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as Clemson overcame a poor start to rally past Syracuse 67-55 Saturday and give a boost to its NCAA Tournament chances.
The Tigers (19-12, 9-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) used a 13-0 run midway through the second half to win for the fourth time in the last five games. Reed had seven points during the stretch, tying the game at 38-all on a 3-pointer before Aamir Simms jumper put Clemson ahead for good.
It was an improbable turnaround given the Tigers’ early struggles. They missed their first 13 shots and were just 3-of-21 shooting early on as the Orange built a nine-point lead. Syracuse (19-12, 10-8) was still up 38-33 on Bourama Sidibe’s basket with 15:53 to play when Clemson began its deciding run.
By the time David Skara finished a 3-point play, the Tigers led 47-38.
Syracuse closed to 49-47 on Buddy Boeheim’s 4-point play. But Shelton Mitchell followed with three foul shots and Reed hit two to once more extend Clemson’s lead.
Reed, like his teammates, was stone cold in the opening half as Clemson’s leading scorer made just two of his eight field goal attempts. But, like the rest of the Tigers, Reed caught fire in the second half. He hit five of nine shots and added 10 rebounds for his third double-double this season.
Elijah Thomas also had a double-double for Clemson with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Oshae Brissett had 15 points to lead the Orange. Syracuse’s top two scorers, Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes, combined for 10 points, more than 20 fewer than their combined average.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s two-three zone gave the Tigers fits early as they shot 25 percent (7 of 28) in the opening half. Clemson had an easier time of things the final 20 minutes, hitting 12 of 25 shots as it opened a 14-point lead down the stretch.
Clemson, which started ACC play 1-4, continued to bolster its chances of making it back to the NCAAs. The Tigers have lived on the tournament bubble the past few weeks. They’ll hope to further make their case at next week’s ACC Tournament.
Things certainly did not look promising early on in this one.
Clemson missed its first 13 shots of the game, continually befuddled at how to attack the Orange zone. Syracuse forced 10 first-half turnovers — the Tigers have averaged just 12 miscues a game during ACC play — several coming late in shot clock when desperate to make a play.
Syracuse closes out the regular season with a record of 19-12 (10-8 in the ACC).
SU will face the winner of Boston College/Pittsburgh on Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina.