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Tigers triumph over Syracuse on senior night

Kate Shealy
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell and his team earned their 21st win of the season on Tuesday night, defeating the Syracuse Orange on Senior Night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Clemson Tigers closed out their last home game of the season with a crucial victory over the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night, winning 90-75 to make it a successful senior night in Littlejohn Coliseum.

With the win, the Tigers are now 21-9 (11-8 ACC) and currently hold the fourth seed in the ACC and a double-bye if the ACC Tournament were to be played on Wednesday.

Against the Orange, the team had one of its best offensive performances this season, as a total of four players found themselves with double digits in the scoring column. PJ Hall led the way with 25 points, 21 of which came in the first half; he went 11-of-19 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Clemson’s offensive efficiency was a major factor in its win. The Tigers shot 56% from the field and over 40% from behind the arc. However, what separated Clemson from Syracuse in terms of efficiency was when Clemson caught the hot hand from the 3-point line in the second half. In the opening period, Clemson and Syracuse both shot under 30% from three. After second-half adjustments, the Tigers shot 58%, compared to Syracuse’s 45%.

Clemson was also nearly flawless from the free throw line, going 15-of-16, while Syracuse managed to shoot 11-of-16.

Clemson was able to put an exclamation point on its victory after dunks from both Hall and Chase Hunter, which extended the lead to 82-68 with two minutes remaining. At this point, the entire arena was on its feet as senior night came to a close.

“If a couple goes in early, you start feeling it, and my teammates kept finding me, and the shots kept falling,” Hall said of his performance. “Once I stepped out there, the nerves went away, and I just wanted to play some ball.”

While the Tigers were in control for the majority of the game, Syracuse continued to find ways to keep the game competitive. After Clemson went on a 12-2 run to close out the first half with a 42-30 lead, Syracuse was able to cut that deficit to five points midway through the second half.

Clemson had a comfortable lead until just under 13 minutes left in the second half when Syracuse took advantage of a series of missed opportunities from Clemson and converted on a pair of free throws that trimmed the Tigers’ lead down to 56-51.

Once the game hit the six-minute mark, and Syracuse started to play with a sense of desperation, Joseph Girard III rose to the occasion.

Syracuse was again hanging by a thread, trailing 70-61 until Girard nailed an and-1 3-pointer for a four-point play. Clemson then jumped out to a 13-point lead and never looked back.

Girard’s impact was crucial, pouring in 21 points and putting up a perfect night from the charity stripe, sinking 7-of-7 attempts. Hunter was able to regroup after a rough outing against Notre Dame last weekend, with 17 points while shooting 50% from the field. Forward Ian Schieffelin was all over the court on both ends, recording a double-double with 16 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.

“They try to make it hard on Joe, which opens up space for other guys,” Brownell said of the standout offensive performance. “We tried to go inside and have a mix; we knew the way they guarded that there’s gonna be some shots.”

Tuesday’s win helps the Tigers get closer to obtaining the fourth seed and the double-bye in the ACC tournament. Clemson is tied with Pittsburgh for the fourth spot but wins the tie-breaker after sweeping the season series against the Panthers.

“We got some big things coming,” Hunter said of the upcoming stretch. “We are about to go on a big run.”

Clemson next heads to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Saturday to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

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