It’s tough to put a 26-point loss in the rear-view mirror, especially one where your team was winning at halftime. That is exactly what the Orange (19-11,10-7) have to do this Saturday against the Clemson Tigers (18-12, 8,9) in both teams’ regular season finales.
The Orange has already taken down the Tigers this season. Forward Elijah Hughes led Syracuse with 14 points in the team’s 61-53 win over Clemson in the Carrier Dome. ‘Cuse followed up that January 9th win by losing to Georgia Tech three days later.
The Tigers were able to beat the Yellow Jackets handily in both matchups between the teams this year. Clemson’s leading scorer Marcquise Reed dropped 30 points in the first game where his team won 72-60. Next time the teams played Georgia Tech managed just 42 points and Clemson walked away with a 23-point win. The next game the Tigers played was their biggest win of the year, a 59-51 victory over the eleventh ranked team in the country at the time, Virginia Tech.
The Orange lost to the Hokies by 22, but Syracuse’s signature win this season came against Duke. Both Clemson and ‘Cuse have only beaten one team ranked in the top fifteen (at the time of the matchup) so far this year, but that is far from the only similarity these teams share.
Both the Orange and the Tigers both average about 70 points, 35 rebounds and 12 assists per game. Both teams also run through a dominant scorer in the backcourt. Clemson’s senior guard Marcquise Reed has 524 points this season, leads his team in field goal attempts (385) and free throw attempts (151), and has led the team in scoring in 19 games so far this year. Syracuse’s NBA bound guard Tyus Battle has 520 point this season, leads his team in field goal attempts (410) and free throw attempts (166), and has led his team in scoring 17 times so far this season.
Decision making will dictate the battle of the backcourt bullies in Clemson on Saturday. In over 100 more minutes of playing time this season, Tyus Battle has just 6 assists less than Reed. Battle leads the Orange in total assists this season with Frank Howard missing time, but his efficiency is what’s impressive in comparison to his opponent.
Marcquise Reed doesn’t lead his team in assists this season, but he does have 75 turnovers. Battle has just 51 giveaways this season. Reed does have 22 more steals and 46 more rebounds than Battle this season.
With ten conference wins, Syracuse is locked into the sixth or seventh seed in the ACC tournament. The Orange can only drop to the seventh seed with a loss Saturday and a Louisville win at Virginia later that day.
Along with a slight boost in seeding, a win against Clemson would also give Jim Boeheim’s team 20 wins heading into the ACC tournament. Both last year’s Sweet Sixteen team and the 2016 Final Four team entered their respective conference tournaments with just 19 wins. The last time SU won 20 games before postseason play was the 2013-2014 season where Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair led the Orange to a 25-0 start, only to get pushed off the NCAA dance floor in the Round of 32.
Tomorrow’s game gets underway at noon. Tune in early on WAER 88.3FM to catch Countdown to Tipoff.