Syracuse knocked off Clemson 91-78 Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Perimeter Defense
Syracuse's perimeter defense, while clearly not perfect, showed significant progress against Clemson. The Orange closed out on shooters, rotated better along the perimeter, contested shots and allowed few opportunities for Clemson shooters to get wide open looks where they could step into the shot. The effort was much better in that area. The Tigers came in shooting over 38% from three on the season, good for third best in the ACC. Clemson shot just 29.6% against Syracuse. Some of that was missed shots. But some of that was also due to Syracuse's defense.
2. Jesse Edwards' Impact
Edwards finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Those are some strong numbers. Yet his impact was greater than that. Clemson had no answer for Edwards all game on either end. Offensively, Edwards was an efficient 4-6 from the floor and got to the free throw line 10 times. He was a big reason why Clemson had three players with four fouls. Edwards did end up fouling out, but he did so in 34 minutes. Syracuse is so much better with him on the floor, and he was a big reason why the Orange won Tuesday night. His ability to block shots (two of his blocks were when he got out to the corner and blocked three point attempts), and alter more while defending the paint is critical to Syracuse's success.
3. Joe Girard
Girard had really struggled shooting the ball in the previous three games, going just 8-26 (31%) from the floor and 3-16 (19%) from three point range. In five of the last six games, Girard was 11-39 (28%) overall and 5-26 (19%) from beyond the arc. He is also averaging about three turnovers per game during that stretch, with three games of at least four. To say he was struggling was an understatement. Against Clemson on Tuesday, Girard was good on both ends. He finished with 23 points on 6-9 shooting including 4-5 from deep while dishing out five assists and snatching four steals with only two turnovers. He made some really nice passes in the half court and in transition while shooting the ball at an extremely high rate. Girard also did a nice job getting into the lane. His effort defensively was also much greater than it had been the previous few games.
4. The Bench
Syracuse got 14 strong minutes from Symir Torrence, who scored four points and dished out two assists without turning it over as Syracuse's three guard lineup proved capable once again. Benny Williams played five minutes in the first half, blocking a shot and grabbing a rebound. Frank Anselem and Bourama Sidibe combined for four points and one rebound in six minutes. Solid contributions all around from the Orange bench.
5. Dominance on the Glass
How good has Syracuse been on the boards lately? Syracuse has outrebounded its last six opponents and seven of the last eight. The Orange had a 39-26 edge against Clemson, who is the fifth best rebounding team in the conference. Syracuse remains 12th due to early season struggles in that area, but rebounding has become a strength of this team. Edwards is a good rebounder, Cole Swider has proven to be a very good rebounder, Jimmy has shown signs at times and the guards are helping out a little bit as well.