No. 1 Syracuse tops Clemson 57-44 for 23rd in row
C.J. Fair scored 19 points, Jerami Grant added 12 and No. 1 Syracuse beat Clemson 57-44 on Sunday night to remain unbeaten.
Syracuse (23-0, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended its school record for wins to start a season and matched the program mark for consecutive wins, established in the 1916-17 and 1917-18 seasons. It was the third meeting between the teams and first in Syracuse, and the Orange's first victory.
It was the 10th time Clemson (15-7, 6-4) had faced the No. 1 team in the nation, and the Tigers have yet to win. The last time Clemson played a No. 1 team was against North Carolina, an 86-81 loss in the 2008 ACC tournament, and the Tigers' last true road game against the nation's No. 1 team was Feb. 8, 2004, an 81-55 loss at Duke.
Trevor Cooney finished with 11 points and Tyler Ennis had six points, five assists and one turnover. Grant also had eight rebounds and Fair grabbed seven.
K.J. McDaniels, the only player in the country leading his team in scoring, rebounding, blocks, steals and 3-pointers, had 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for Clemson. Jordan Roper and Jaron Blossomgame each scored seven points.
Syracuse shot 44.4 percent (24 of 54) and held the best defensive team in the nation to 14-of-41 shooting (34.1 percent). The Orange also committed just five turnovers and dominated the paint, 32-14.
Syracuse led by nine at the break and extended the lead to 39-27 on Fair's pretty scoop off the glass with 15:40 left.
The Tigers answered with a 10-3 spurt to get right back in it as Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas went to the bench with his fourth foul. Roper started the surge with a 3 from the right wing, McDaniels followed with a free throw and a dunk, and Josh Smith's hook in the lane pulled Clemson to 42-37 with 10:41 to play.
Fair responded with a pair of free throws and a pretty runner crossing the lane to boost the lead back to nine with 8:27 left.
Ennis' lefty layup gave the Orange a 48-37 lead with 6:56 to go, Damarcus Harrison answered with a 3 for Clemson, and Grant came back with a baseline drive off the glass at 4:45 to keep the lead at double digits.
Cooney's 3 from the top of the key extended the lead to 15 with 2:03 left.
Clemson entered the game leading Division I in scoring defense, yielding an average of 55 points per game. The Tigers also ranked eighth in field goal percentage defense (.378) and 12th in blocked shot average (6.1). Syracuse shot 50 percent (13 of 26) in the first half and held the Tigers to 6-of-22 shooting (27.3 percent) while blocking three shots to two for the Tigers in gaining a 31-22 lead at the break.
Clemson had some decent looks in the lane in the opening period against the Syracuse zone but was unable to convert much as the Orange dominated the paint, 18-4.
Syracuse only trailed once in the game at 2-0 but never led by more than six in the first half until the final minute. After McDaniels converted a follow and a pair of free throws to tie the score at 22 with 4:22 left, Syracuse clamped down and closed the period with a 9-0 spurt as the Tigers committed two turnovers and missed four shots.
Cooney started it with a 3-pointer from the left corner, Grant hit high off the glass on a baseline drive and followed with a tip of a miss by Ennis, and Fair finished it with a baseline drive with 5.1 seconds left for a 31-22 Syracuse lead. Fair and Grant, who combined for just 15 points in Monday night's 61-55 win over Notre Dame on 5-for-21 shooting, had 19 in the first half Sunday on 8-for-12 shooting.
Syracuse's Baye Moussa Keita sprained his right leg with just more than 6 minutes left in the opening half and went to the locker room to be evaluated. He did not play in the second half.