Behind Mack, Trapp, Clemson Finds Way To Beat Syracuse
CLEMSON — Brad Brownell schemed his way around aggressive man-to-man defenses for much of the month of January, when Clemson men’s basketball knocked off the likes of N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke.
Syracuse presented an entirely different challenge Tuesday night with their famous matchup zone, and Clemson found a new way to win.
Tevin Mack scored a career-high 32 points, and Clyde Trapp made a go-ahead layup with 2 seconds left to push Clemson to a 71-70 victory over the Orange at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“When you play them, you better have about four thing you’re trying to figure out,” Brownell said. “We started the game doing one or two things that work. Then all of a sudden...they make an adjustment. It’s hard.
“It was about us getting the ball to a good player and letting him make plays.”
The Tigers improved to 11-9 overall and 5-5 in ACC play with an offense that attacked the zone with Mack manning the high post and picking Syracuse off for baskets close to the rim all night.
After an 0-3 start to ACC play, Brownell has beaten the Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim this month.
“I think everybody has a will to win around here," Trapp said. "It was time for things to start changing."
Syracuse came into the game on a five-game winning streak and had not lost a road ACC game until Tuesday night.
Mack changed that by shooting 12-of-17 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds. Clemson leading scorer Aamir Simms scored just two points, yet the Tigers found a way.
Brownell used Mack in the middle of the zone and put Simms down on the block. Despite being undersized at 6-foot-6 against 6-7 and 6-10 post players, Mack was aggressive around the rim, using pump fakes and scoop shots to score points. He also found a spot in the paint where he hit a few turnaround jumpers.
“Had a good time playing in there tonight," Mack said. "There was a lot of space in there. Made some right plays, my teammates found me and I’m thankful they found me. I was able to make some plays in there and help us get that win.”
Clemson worked on getting the ball into the high post leading up to this game, but once Mack got hot, Brownell played exclusively through him at times in the second half.
"We don’t mind it going there," Boeheim said. "We think our center can guard that guy there and he didn’t."
The Tigers trailed 35-33 at the half, and a 10-2 Syracuse run put Clemson down by 45-35 early in the second half.
Behind Mack, Clemson fought back and took a 53-52 lead with 9:19 left.
The teams went back and forth for a while, and after Syracuse pushed back ahead, Mack tied the game at 67-all after an and-1, but Joseph Girard III nailed a 3 on the other end with 1:34 left.
Simms got the Tigers back within a point, but the teams traded turnovers with under a minute to play.
Syracuse missed two attempts, including one on an inbounds pass at the shot-clock buzzer that hit the rim, to increase their lead, and Khavon Moore raced down the court with less than 10 seconds to play and found Trapp on the ended up with the ball on the right side and took it to the basket for the go-ahead two.
Syracuse got one last shot attempt by Elijah Hughes from nearly halfcourt, but it fell short.
“Everybody wants to hit a game-winner,” said Trapp, who scored 17 points in his ninth game back from a torn ACL last summer. “I just wanted to make a winning play.”