SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- On his twentieth birthday, freshman Malachi Richardson had his best game in a Syracuse uniform. He scored 21 points on 5-of-12 shooting. All five his makes came from behind the 3-point line, where he attempted seven shots. His 6-for-8 performance from the free throw line wasn't bad either, but it wasn't good enough.
Richardson scored six points in the first half on two 3-pointers. He also led the Orange with five first-half rebounds. Behind Tyler Roberson, who scored ten points on 5-of-7 shooting, he was SU's most efficient offensive weapon in the first half.
In the second half, Richardson went 2-of-5 from the field, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He finished regulation with 17 points, three points short of his career-high 20 vs. Miami just three days prior. He was 1-for-1 from 3-point range in overtime, and 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
At the end of regulation, Malachi had a chance to win the game for the Orange with two late free throws. With the Orange leading 60-58 with 18 seconds left, the 6-foot-6 freshman made his first free throw attempt. Clemson then called timeout to ice Richardson. His next free throw attempted rattled out, Jaron Blossomgame grabbed the rebound which ultimately led to a game-tying 3-pointer from Gabe DeVoe with 5.6 seconds remaining in the second half.
"If I make the free throw, the second free throw after the timeout, we win the game," Richardson said after the game. "I gave them a chance, they nailed the 3 and took it to overtime."
Richardson is wise beyond his years. We all know he wasn't the reason Syracuse lost the game on Tuesday night. In fact, without his 21-point performance, there's no telling what the scoreboard would've read as the final buzzer sounded. Malachi could've pointed the finger at somebody else, say Trevor Cooney who was held scoreless in the first half, and finished the game 4-of-10 from 3-point range, and missed the game-winning 3-pointer with time winding down in overtime. Or Tyler Lydon, who scored four points on 1-of-6 from the field in 38 minutes.
But instead, Richardson took the blame. He stayed in the locker room, answered everyone's questions and took responsibility for the loss.
Roughly forty seconds prior to his missed free throw, Malachi hit a remarkable 3-pointer right in front of the Syracuse bench as the shot clock expired. It gave the Orange a 60-56 lead with 1:02 to go in the game.
"I knew the shot clock was running down and I knew I had to get up a shot and it went in," he said.
But, with the loss still looming in the SU locker room, he reminded reporters of what really mattered, "It was exciting, but we came up short again."
When asked about No. 6 North Carolina coming to the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Malachi responded, "It's another game that we need to win, can't say more than that."