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Moments after Clemson sliced into Syracuse’s double-digit lead with a 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining, Joe Girard III had a response. He dribbled the ball between his legs and stared down Clemson’s Alex Hemenway before pulling up for a shot.
From a few feet beyond the top of the 3-point arc, Girard saw Hemenway closing down his shot but knew he could get it over the defender. The shot swished, canceling out what could’ve become a momentum-shifting bucket for the Tigers and reestablishing Syracuse’s lead at 10.
In a back-and-forth game that featured near non-stop scoring for much of the second half, it was Girard who scored his first four consecutive 3s, and Buddy Boeheim who provided the spark for Syracuse’s (9-9, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) offense. Clemson (10-8, 2-5 ACC) seemed to have an answer for every Syracuse basket — the Tigers responded to Girard’s trifecta with an electrifying dunk over Jesse Edwards — because the Orange defense couldn’t get many stops. But SU eventually pulled away with a 13-point win. The conference victory puts the Orange back at .500.
Girard’s season has been an up-and-down one thus far. Since SU’s COVID-19 pause, he had 15 points or less in six of seven games. He had 10 games with at least three turnovers. But Tuesday night, he posted a near perfect shooting performance, going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line for 23 points. And he continually answered what would’ve been crucial buckets for Clemson with clutch, timely shots of his own.
Girard scored the second-most points on Tuesday night in SU’s win over the Tigers, combining with top-scorer Buddy for 48 points. Syracuse didn’t get many defensive stops against Clemson, but the offense was enough through Girard and Buddy.
“Joe got it going. Joe’s an offensive point guard — he’s got to do what he did tonight,” Boeheim said after the game. “He played great. He was great the whole game.”
Early on, Girard hit a 3-pointer from the right side of the arc on the move. The shot came in transition for SU’s first points of the night when Girard elevated from multiple feet beyond the 3-point line and found the bottom of the net. He succeeded again a minute later from even deeper, with the heels of his feet nearly touching the Syracuse logo.
Girard pump-faked and then dished to Buddy for a 3-pointer to stretch SU’s lead to 10 and then made a fadeaway floater in the paint to make it 11. Those early buckets helped fuel SU’s early lead, one that Boeheim said wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for its hot shooting start on offense.
“Right from the beginning he got us off to a good start,” Boeheim said. “But we can’t win games just scoring points. We have to get stops, and we were just giving too many easy, too much easy things inside.”
The first-half lead that Girard helped facilitate quickly evaporated, like Boeheim said, behind a 9-0 run from Clemson. Against Florida State, Girard posted 10 of his 11 points in the first half but then went quiet.
Tuesday night, though, was quite the opposite. He opened the second half with a 3-pointer over his defender, continuing his perfect start from beyond the arc before he was then fouled on another (he made all three free throws).
“It makes it really hard for a defense,” Girard said, referencing when he and Buddy are rolling on offense. “We know that when that happens to us, we’re going to get a lot of attention from it. It opens up for a lot of other people as well.”
Girard floated a jumper from just outside the paint and then got to the foul line for another two free throws.
And finally, he positioned himself at the top of the arc and watched Edwards uncover. Girard fired a precise, right-handed pass to the center, and Edwards dunked it to cap off a double-digit victory for SU.
The goal, Girard said, is to use Tuesday’s outing as a springboard to build some consistency and string together strong performances.
“Just stay confident,” Girard said when asked what he could take from Tuesday’s outing moving forward. “Just keep being aggressive, taking it day by day at this point and focusing on one practice, one workout, one game at a time.”
The post Joe Girard III scores 23 points, leading SU’s commanding offense vs. Clemson appeared first on The Daily Orange.