Battle's dagger sinks Tigers in heartbreaker in Littlejohn
Gabe DeVoe with the early pressure Photo by Joshua S. Kelly, USAT)

Battle's dagger sinks Tigers in heartbreaker in Littlejohn

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Tyus Battle took his shot, and Clemson took a shot to the heart.

Battle hit a 3-pointer from the corner as time expired and Syracuse won its fifth game in a row in defeating Clemson 82-81 Tuesday night in Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson had taken an 81-79 lead on Donte Grantham’s jumper in the paint with 6.7 seconds remaining, but the Orange drove the ball down the court and Battle’s shot swished through as the buzzer sounded.

Clemson has now lost two in a row and falls to 13-10 overall and 3-8 in the ACC. Syracuse improves to 16-9 overall and 8-4 in the league.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 20 points, Avry Holmes added 13 and Shelton Mitchell, Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham scored 10 each. Mitchell led the Tigers with eight assists. Andrew Wihte, III, led the Orange with 23 points.

Each team was 14-17 from the free throw line.

“This was obviously a painful ending to a really well-played game by our team. I thought offensively, we played about as well as you can play," head coach Brad Brownell said. "We shot 54 percent, with 19 assists, and had only eight turnovers. We just played at a really high level. We got the ball in a lot of good places - five players in double figures - that’s why it is so painful. We had a mixup on the last play. We thought [Tyler] Roberson was still in the game for them, he is their best offensive rebounder so we had Sidy [Djitte] in to make sure he didn’t tip one in, then you look out and he is not in the game. We were in trouble because he isn’t used to guarding perimeter players that often, and he left a shooter and we lost on a last-second shot. It is unfortunate. I feel awful for my players.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said he thinks Clemson belongs in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s a great conference. The problem is, you lose so many games in the conference," Boeheim said. "Clemson is an NCAA (Tournament) team. No doubt in my mind they can beat anybody. You look at our league, Pittsburgh is in last place but they beat Maryland, who is leading the Big Ten. They beat Marquette, who is near the top of the Big East. In this conference, every win is tough. We have a lot of good teams and we have a lot of teams at the top that are really, really good teams. It’s difficult.”

Clemson led for most of the first half, and Holmes hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Blossomgame threw down an alley-oop gave Clemson its biggest lead at 22-10 with 10:36 to play in the half.

The Orange began to chip away at the lead, however and took their first lead of the game when Andrew White hit a trey from the right wing for a 35-34 lead with two minutes remaining in the half. White followed that with another 3-pointer 30 seconds later and Syracuse led 38-34.

However, Shelton Mitchell hit two free throws and Marcquise Reed hit a layup with 34 seconds to play that tied the score at 38-38. The Orange missed a shot with seven seconds remaining, and Reed was fouled at halfcourt with 2.8 seconds left. He hit both free throws and Clemson led 40-38 at intermission.

The teams battled point for point coming out of halftime, but after Syracuse had taken a 53-51 lead six minutes into the half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes. Blossomgame had six of the 10 points, and his dunk with 10:31 left on the game clock gave Clemson a 51-53 lead with 10:50 remaining.

Clemson eventually increased its lead to nine, but Syracuse went on a 7-0 run that cut the lead to two at just 70-68 with a little over five minutes remaining. Blossomgame hit two free throws to end the run and give Clemson a 72-68 lead with 5:19 to play.

With Clemson clinging to a 76-74 lead, both teams got sloppy, and the Tigers missed three easy chances on the offensive end. On the defensive end, Mitchell was knocked to the floor and White a 3-pointer that gave the Orange a 77-76 lead with 1:49 to play.

However, Holmes buried a trey from the top of the key and Clemson retook the lead at 79-77 just 23 seconds later. Syracuse turned it over on the ensuing possession, but the Tigers turned it back over to the Orange on the inbounds pass. Lydon hit two free throws with 35.3 seconds left on the clock, and the teams were tied at 79-79.

Clemson returns to action Saturday, traveling to Durham to take on Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 1 p.m., and Brownell said he won't let his team worry about a tough environment.

“You don’t worry about any of that. You just take a day off and come back and try to learn from this game and get ready to go play another game," Brownell said. "We have to get our team prepared and get them back as emotionally as you can. Sometimes that is harder than the physical part. People forget that we start this in August, and are playing games since November. It is just different, the ups and downs of your season when you have played 30 games rather than just once a week. You have to try to snap out of it. The emotional ups and downs of the season are challenging, and you have to try to keep your guys going.”

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