Syracuse continued its recent success on Saturday night against Clemson, passing its second Atlantic Coast Conference test of the year. The Orange started off slow, with Teisha Hyman finding little success and the team finishing the first quarter shooting just 1-for-9 from deep. But with three straight 3s in the second quarter, SU pulled ahead of the Tigers and never looked back.
The Orange ended the night shooting well above their season average from the field, and each of the regular starters settled into their rhythms. Alaysia Styles finished with her first double-double with SU, and after having a tricky time stopping Clemson from penetrating the 2-3 zone, ended the game with more rebounds than the Tigers.
Here are some observations from Syracuse’s (7-4, 1-1 ACC) first conference win against Clemson (5-4, 0-1 ACC).
Utilizing the midrange
Syracuse had a difficult time shooting in the early parts of Saturday night’s game. Clemson’s defense played the Orange tight, forcing off-balanced shots from long range by Christianna Carr and contested attempts inside by Hyman. But SU found enough space just inside the outer arc to knock down shots from mid range. Chrislyn Carr sprinted off with the ball and pulled up on the right side of the paint to bank in the Orange’s first points. Hyman did the same on the ensuing possession.
Even Najé Murray’s floater that rattled around before falling in was attempted from just inside the free-throw line. The Orange ended the first half with 18 points in the paint, much of which came off floaters and pull-up jumpers around the free-throw line. Whether SU was in the midst of three straight 3s or couldn’t find enough room down low to make a layup, the Orange continued to rely on its mid range shooting to gradually extend the lead and make what was once a close game into a blowout.
Najé Murray leads the way
Acting head coach Vonn Read presented Murray with a basketball honoring her 1,000th collegiate point that she scored against Central Connecticut State. While she, with the rest of Syracuse, started off cold, even airballing a 3-pointer, she exploded in the middle quarters, fueling SU’s overpowering run that lasted the entire game.
Murray has consistently provided a veteran presence on the court for a team working to gel into a functioning unit. Alongside Chrislyn and Hyman, she’s been one prong of a three-headed guard combination that can find elite success from deep. To begin the second half, Christianna drew two defenders, dished it over to Murray in the nearside corner and watched as she buried the shot before high-fiving her. Clemson didn’t seem to adjust to Murray, as she continued to knock down open shots.
In transition to extend the Orange’s run to 9-0, Murray sprinted down the court. When she directed her teammates to their positions in the five-out, the Tigers defenders followed, leaving Murray all alone inside the 3-point line to knock down an uncontested shot. Murray finished with a team-leading 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds, demonstrating Syracuse’s utilization of rebounding guards.
Syracuse lets Clemson inside, then builds a wall
Syracuse needs defensive rebounds in order to stay with larger teams this season. For the most part, it’s done that with relative success, only getting significantly outrebounded by Minnesota and USF. The Orange hung with Clemson for the majority of the first half in terms of rebounds, especially on the defensive end, but the Tigers outmatched them in key moments. Midway through the second quarter, Daisha Bradford secured Clemson’s ninth offensive rebound of the game, leading to a putback layup to give the Tigers a six point lead.
Syracuse’s zone has worked at times and been sliced up at others. Early against Clemson, SU allowed the Tigers to cut through holes on the outsides, giving them an unwanted presence inside. It’s what kept Clemson in the game for as long as it was. On defense, Syracuse continued to body Clemson players driving inside, which stifled many Clemson comeback attempts. In the third quarter, Styles and a limping Christianna bodied Gabby Elliott when she entered the paint.
3-point woes return, then get fixed
Clemson entered Saturday night as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams nationally. It’s what led to the Tigers’ stunning loss to Columbia and has handcuffed them in each game since. But when Alaina Rice air balled a 3-point attempt with under 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Syracuse was just 1-for-9 from deep. Syracuse began the season with inconsistent success from long range, but the Orange — filled with reliant 3-point shooters — seemed to fall into place following a 50% showing against Buffalo.
Saturday night displayed the same lack of success the Orange saw in losses to Notre Dame and USF. Syracuse went seven minutes between its first and second 3-point shot. After Murray got enough space from head on and buried a 3, however, SU exploded for a 9-0 run to reclaim a five-point lead. Murray came back down the court and connected from the left side of the outer arc. Then Chrislyn juked out a falling Clemson defender, slid to her right and connected on her first 3 of the night, prompting a Tiger timeout.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Syracuse returned to its lights-out shooting from deep with two straight made shots from the far side. The Orange finished the bludgeoning shooting 46.4% from beyond the arc.
Teisha Hyman falls back to Earth
Before Syracuse’s game against Cornell, Read said he didn’t “think there’s any limits to Teisha.” Hyman has emerged as one of Syracuse’s best all-around players since returning from her second torn ACL. She was named ACC Player of the Week after a 30-point performance against then-No. 18 Ohio State and falling two rebounds short of a quadruple-double against Central Connecticut State. Against Clemson, it took a while for Hyman to find that familiar stride she’s been in this season.
She ripped off a clean bounce pass inside to a crashing Rice for one of her nine assists in the middle of Syracuse’s 20-5 run at the end of the first half. But Hyman had difficulty shooting she hasn’t had this season. With Syracuse down 9-7, a rebound by Murray worked its way around to Hyman, who drove and missed on a routine layup attempt. Hyman ended the night with eight points and got overshadowed offensively by Murray and Christianna.
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