Clemson (15-6) at (1) Syracuse (22-0)
02/09/2014 7:22 AM
02/09/2014 7:29 AM
GAME NOTES: The top-ranked Syracuse Orange continue their quest for perfection, as they play host to the Clemson Tigers in an ACC showdown at the Carrier Dome on Sunday.
Jim Boeheim's Orange are one of just two unbeaten teams left in the nation along with Wichita State. Syracuse is coming off a 61-55 win over Notre Dame last time out, moving to 22-0 to start the year. The team is obviously unbeaten in its first season in the ACC, sitting atop the standings at 9-0. A win here would match the school record of 23 straight wins set in the 1916-17 season and matched in 1917-18.
Brad Brownell's Tigers aren't out of the conference race by any stretch, as they have posted a 6-3 league ledger, as part of an impressive 15-6 overall mark. Clemson enters this contest off back-to-back wins over Florida State (53-49) and most recently, Georgia Tech (45-41).
Clemson has won both previous meetings with Syracuse. The last time these teams met was in the 2007 NIT, a 74-70 win for the Tigers.
The Tigers lead the nation in scoring defense this season, yielding a meager 55.0 ppg. Foes are netting just 37.8 percent of their shots from the floor (eighth nationally), including a mere 27 percent from 3-point range. Strong defensive efforts have been a must for Clemson, which posts modest offensive numbers on the season. The team averages 63.0 ppg on a rather bland 41.8 percent efficiency. Forward K.J. McDaniels is the top playmaker for the Tigers, leading the team in both scoring (16.3 ppg), rebounding (7,0 rpg), blocks (55) and steals (24). The scoring pool dries up fast after that, with guard Rod Hall's 9.0 ppg ranking second on the squad.
Neither team shot the ball very well in Clemson's four-point decision over Georgia Tech. The Tigers managed a mere .319 effort from the floor in the game, but offset the poor shooting performance by holding the Yellow Jackets to just .348 accuracy, while forcing Tech into 15 turnovers. Jordan Roper was the only Tiger to manage double figures in the win, finishing with 12 points off the bench. McDaniels struggled with his shot, hitting just 3-of-14 from the floor, en route to an eight-point outing.
Clemson's already questionable scoring will certainly be put to the task against the stingy Orange. Syracuse is also among the nation's best defensive squads, limiting foes to just 59.1 ppg and .409 shooting. The team also takes great care of the basketball with only 9.4 turnovers per game, while holding a +5.4 rebounding margin as well. Preseason ACC Player of the Year C.J. Fair hasn't disappointed, as the senior forward paces the Orange with a steady 16.7 ppg. Guards Trevor Cooney (14.1 ppg) and Tyler Ennis (12.1 ppg) and forward Jerami Grant (12.8 ppg) provide balance offensively. Cooney is the team's resident sniper, shooting .436 from long range, with 68 3-pointers to his credit. Ennis ranks second in the conference in assists with 5.6 per game.
Cooney was on fire in the win over Notre Dame last week, tying the school- record with nine 3-pointers, while amassing a career-high 33 points. Cooney was 11-of-15 on the night, including 9-of-12 from behind the arc. Grant finished with nine points in support, but Fair really struggled, going an ugly 2-of-13 from the floor and managing just six points in 38 minutes on the floor.
Fair isn't going to have many off nights, but these teams play stellar defense, so this could be a low-scoring affair. Another fast start by Cooney however, could tip the scales further in the Orange's favor.
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