Basketball Flashback: Clemson Holds Off Syracuse in 2007 NIT Quarterfinals

Christopher Hall

In today’s basketball flashback we set the time travel setting to March 21, 2007. Oliver Purnell’s Clemson Tiger men’s basketball team (24-10) hosted the Syracuse Orange (24-11) with a chance for the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden.

It was a bit of an unlikely situation as the Tigers had started the season 17-0 becoming the final NCAA division one team to suffer a loss. However, things went down hill from there and Clemson only won four the final 14 games.

Clemson guard K.C. Rivers poured in 29 points (21 in the first half), James Mays notched 13 points and seven boards. Recent NBA retiree Trevor Booker had a quiet night of four points, four rebounds as the Tigers defended their homecourt in Littlejohn Coliseum defeating Syracuse, 74-70. A capacity crowd took in the contest which saw Clemson nearly blow a 17-point lead before holding off the Orange in the final moments.

Eric Devendorf led Syracuse with 23 points and Demetris Nichols pitched in 20 including all three of Orange’s shots from beyond the arc. Syracuse was just 3-of-16 from three-point land while Clemson connected on 9-of-19 attempts.

It was Rivers who helped put the nail in the coffin for Syracuse’s season, nailing a pair of free throws with just under 20 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 71-68. Josh Wight’s prayer from downtown went unanswered and Clemson guard Vern Hamilton secured the all-important rebound. He, too, would sink both of his free throw shots with roughly 10 seconds remaining to push the lead to 73-68.

Syracuse’s Devendorf pitched in a quick drive to the basket with less than five seconds remaining to shave the lead to 73-70. However, Clemson's David Potter hit the first of his free throws before missing the second and time expired on the visiting Orange.

"We played with our hearts and our minds today," Rivers said in his post-game press conference. "We left everything out there."

The Tigers edged Air Force (26-9) in the NIT Semifinal (68-67) at MSG before falling short, 78-73, in the Championship tilt to West Virginia (27-9). 

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