SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle each scored 17 points and Syracuse rallied to beat No. 18 Clemson 55-52 on Saturday to remain in the hunt for a postseason berth.
It was an opportunity for Syracuse (19-12, 8-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) to fill the biggest void on its resume — the lack of a marquee win — and the Orange capitalized. They were coming off a 15-point loss at Boston College, which put a big dent in their postseason hopes.
Clemson (22-8, 11-7) entered the game ranked eighth in RPI and already assured of its first NCAA Tournament berth in seven years. The Tigers finished 4-6 on the road and suffered just their second loss this season after leading at halftime.
Marcquise Reed had 21 points and Elijah Thomas 18 to lead Clemson as the pair accounted for every Clemson point in the second half. Gabe DeVoe was 2 of 13, 0 of 6 from beyond the arc, for four points.
Frank Howard finished with 11 points for the Orange, who shot just 30.2 percent (16 of 53) for the game. Battle also boosted his career points to 1,006.
Brissett broke a 50-all tie with a pair of free throws after Aamir Simms had missed a corner 3 and Brissett was fouled by Richards while snaring the rebound. Two free throws by Paschal Chukwu gave the Orange a four-point lead with 90 seconds left, but Reed converted a fast-break layup with 43.6 seconds to go after a miss by Battle to draw Clemson to 54-52.
After Battle missed again at the shot-clock buzzer, Brissett blocked Reed close in with 3.4 seconds left and the Orange survived when DeVoe’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer caromed off the rim.
Syracuse’s big three of Battle, Howard, and Brissett combined to shoot 5 of 19, (26.3 percent) for 15 points in the first half, but they all came alive in the second.
Battle scored eight straight points to key an early surge that put the Orange back in front and got the season-high crowd of 28,670 roaring. He drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and hit a jumper in the lane before Brissett converted a three-point play to give the Orange a 33-30 lead. Howard’s 3 off a screen by the 7-foot-2 Chukwu boosted the lead to six with 14:00 left.
Reed was the lone bright spot for the Tigers early. He drained three 3-pointers to keep them close, his third moving Clemson within 39-36 at 12:17.
After Battle’s fastbreak layup off a steal by Howard gave the Orange a seven-point lead, Thomas converted a three-point play, Reed hit a pretty floater in the lane and Thomas followed with a putback to knot the score at 43 with just over 9 minutes left.
Syracuse retired the jersey of former star Lawrence Moten at halftime. Moten still holds the school scoring record of 2,334 points, set from 1991-95, which also is the Big East record.
“I’m the third guy from the Washington, D.C. area to have my jersey retired,” Moten said to the crowd, referencing Dave Bing and Sherman Douglas. “Understand this, that officially makes us three Georgetown killers.”
Clemson fell behind by five midway through the first half and used an 11-2 run to regain the lead, with nine of the points coming on free throws. The Tigers led 25-22 at the break despite shooting 35 percent and hitting just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. The Orange shot 8 of 26 (30.8 percent). Freshman Marek Dolezaj led Syracuse with seven points and leading scorer Battle had only three on 1-of-6 shooting.
Clemson: Clemson entered the game tied for third in the ACC standings and is assured of a berth in the NCAA Tournament no matter how they fare in the conference tourney next week.
Syracuse: The Orange likely still need a strong showing in the ACC Tournament next week if they hope to nab an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. They’re 0-3 in the conference postseason since joining the ACC five years ago.
Clemson: ACC Tournament.
Syracuse: Begins play in the ACC Tournament against Wake Forest on Tuesday.