SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Orange made five threes in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to push them past the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers had the game within range, but were never able to take the lead as Syracuse beat Clemson 83-62.
“As soon as we would make a dent and get within striking distance, we let them loose for a three,” Clemson head coach Audra Smith said. “And that would silence us.”
Clemson (4-18, 0-9 ACC) had injuries, limited numbers and their post players got into foul trouble early. The Tigers have a limited bench and rotated through an eight-man roster compared to the Orange bench that is twelve deep. Clemson wasn’t able to sustain the frantic pace of the Orange.
The Orange (17-6, 7-3 ACC) has its eye on making the top four in the ACC rankings to earn a good seed for the NCAA tournament. Syracuse currently sits a number five in the ACC.
“To make sure we get into the NCAA tournament the first step is getting a win at home,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “It’s always important to take care of your home court and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Orange started the game with some mental errors resulting in turnovers on their end, which didn’t allow them to press immediately but they were able to maintain a lead.
“We have to get the ball in the basket or get some live ball turnovers to where we can get some points in transition, so we can get into our pressure a little bit sooner,” Hillsman said. “I thought that was key to the game.”
The Tigers are shooting only 35 percent from the field for the season, but early in the first quarter they were 4-for-5 shooting.
Junior center Briana Day and red shirt senior guard Brittney Sykes both went for an offensive rebound that resulted in them colliding and the ball was picked up by Clemson freshman guard Danielle Edwards who took it coast-to-coast for a layup bringing the Tigers within ten points. Syracuse led 28-18 with 6:31 remaining in the first half.
Syracuse had last possession of the half and red shirt senior guard Maggie Morrison called an isolation play. Junior center Bria Day set a screen for freshman guard Abby Grant. Grant was wide open and Morrison dished the ball to Grant who hit a buzzer beater to put the Orange up 39-26 at half.
In the third quarter the Orange came out strong increasing the pace of the game with steals and layups by Sykes, junior guard Alexis Peterson, and senior guard Cornelia Fondren.
With 1:36 left in the third, Clemson sophomore guard Nelly Perry sank a three to bring the Tigers within nine 54-45. The Orange answered with two threes from Morrison to end the third quarter and Syracuse led 60-47.
Sykes started the fourth quarter with a layup and the Orange didn’t look back: Morrison, Peterson, senior guard Brianna Butler, and senior forward Taylor Ford hit threes within the first five minutes of the quarter to take an 81-53 lead.
“It was huge for us,” Butler said. “The whole game we weren’t playing as hard as we can, we weren’t able to knock down our shots in the first three quarters so we definitely wanted to come out in the fourth quarter and increase our lead.”
Syracuse forced 33 turnovers, made 14 threes on the evening, and took 28 more shots than the Tigers.
The Tigers took fewer shots than the Orange but they shot 48 percent from the field and Smith was pleased with the accuracy.
“I think we did a good job with that,” Smith said. “I’m very proud of Victoria Cardaci and Perry too, for being able to knock down the threes they were able to knock down.”
Butler led all scorers with 17 points.
Syracuse had 4 players score in double figures. Peterson finished with 15 points, Morrison had 11 points, and Briana Day had 11 points and 8 rebounds.
Perry led in scoring for Clemson with 15 points.
The Tigers also had four players score in double figures. Edwards finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, sophomore guard Victoria Cardaci had 12 points, and junior forward Paige Mosley had 10 points.
Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome Sunday February 7 at 2 p.m. to take on Georgia Tech where the Orange will be supporting ‘Celebration of Women Day’.