CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Marcquise Reed has played like its NCAA Tournament time for weeks as Clemson fights to land on the right side of the bubble. He had second-half performance against Syracuse sure to gain the Tigers some points with the tournament committee.
Reed scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as Clemson overcame a poor start to rally past Syracuse 67-55 Saturday and give a boost to its NCAA Tournament chances.
The Tigers (19-12, 9-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) used a 13-0 run midway through the second half. Reed had seven points during the stretch, tying the game at 38-all on a 3-pointer before Aamir Simms jumper put Clemson ahead for good.
Reed, a senior playing his final regular-season game at Littlejohn Coliseum, said he's treated the past couple of weeks like NCAA play, knowing every victory was essential if the Tigers hope to make it back to the Big Dance for a second straight season.
"Every game has basically been an NCAA Tournament game," he said.
If that's the case, Reed and the Tigers have had an impact as they've won four of their last five and finished .500 or better in the ACC for the sixth time in coach Brad Brownell's nine seasons.
Brownell is unsure if his team is in the field of 68. "But if you've watched us, we look like a team that's good enough to be in the NCAA and do a lot of damage," he said.
It was an improbable turnaround given the Tigers' early struggles. They missed their first 13 shots and were just 3-of-21 shooting early on as the Orange built a nine-point lead. Syracuse (19-12, 10-8) was still up 38-33 on Bourama Sidibe's basket with 15:53 to play when Clemson began its deciding run.
By the time David Skara finished a 3-point play, the Tigers led 47-38.
Syracuse closed to 49-47 on Buddy Boeheim's 4-point play. But Shelton Mitchell followed with three foul shots and Reed hit two to once more extend Clemson's lead.
Reed, like his teammates, was stone cold in the opening half as Clemson's leading scorer made just two of his eight field goal attempts. But, like the rest of the Tigers, Reed caught fire in the second half. He hit five of nine shots and added 10 rebounds for his third double-double this season.
Elijah Thomas also had a double-double for Clemson with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Oshae Brissett had 15 points to lead the Orange. Syracuse's top two scorers, Tyus Battle and Elijah Hughes, combined for 10 points, more than 20 fewer than their combined average.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said his team came apart when Clemson picked up its rebounding and defense. The Tigers outrebounded the Orange 24-10 in the second half and "their defense was better than our offense, simple as that," Boeheim said.
Syracuse's 2-3 zone gave the Tigers fits early as they shot 25 percent (7 of 28) in the opening half. Clemson had an easier time of things the final 20 minutes, hitting 12 of 25 shots as it opened a 14-point lead down the stretch.
Clemson, which started ACC play 1-4, continued to bolster its chances of making it back to the NCAAs. The Tigers have lived on the tournament bubble the past few weeks. They'll hope to further make their case at next week's ACC Tournament.
Syracuse: The Orange are considered an NCAA Tournament lock, but will have to snap out of their late season slide with four defeats in their final five games. Three of those losses, though, were against No. 1 Duke, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 2 Virginia.
Clemson: The Tigers have an experienced core of seniors — four starters in Reed, Mitchell, Thomas and David Skara — to contend anywhere. Clemson, though, has been prone to inconsistent stretches and must limit those if it hopes to have a strong March.
Clemson said farewell to four senior starters in Reed, Mitchell, Thomas and Skara. The group combined for 52 of Clemson's 67 points and 27 of 45 rebounds. Brownell praised the group for hanging together despite the Tigers 1-4 start to ACC play.
Syracuse coach said forward Elijah Hughes was not very effective and that's why he played just 11 minutes. Boeheim said Hughes, a 13-point a game scorer who went scoreless against Clemson, fell out of the flow with two early fouls, then did not elevate his game when he got back in.
Syracuse plays in the ACC Tournament
Clemson plays in the ACC Tournament
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