Syracuse over-relies on Christmas, falls to Clemson for 1st conference loss

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ CLEMSON, S.C. — Asking Rakeem Christmas to do it all wasn’t fair and it didn’t work.He couldn’t defend the basket and the perimeter. He couldn’t work the post and drive the lane. Someone else had to at least score. But for the first 13 minutes of Syracuse’s game against Clemson on Saturday evening in Littlejohn Coliseum, though, no one else did.Trevor Cooney was getting shut out from the field. Michael Gbinije wouldn’t shine until press-and-foul time. Kaleb Joseph improved and Tyler Roberson snagged rebounds, but the bench was short and scoreless.When the final buzzer sounded, finalizing SU’s (13-5, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) 66-53 loss to Clemson (10-7, 2-3), Christmas had 21 points — which accounted for 40 percent of the Orange’s scoring — and 10 rebounds, and was the best player on a team that was left searching for more.“Mike and I have been there the last couple games and he had a decent game and I had a terrible game,” Cooney said. “And when that happens we’re not going to win.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAt halftime the Orange looked as beaten as it had all season. SU was trailing by 21, largely because it was leaving Clemson shooters open on the perimeter, not clutching the ball when they did miss and altogether leaving Christmas with too many messes to clean up.Thirteen minutes into the game, Christmas had nine points and the rest of the Orange had zero. The Tigers had 21.He had asserted himself from the opening whistle, winning the tip and going up over Jaron Blossomgame in the matchup’s first 20 seconds. When SU jogged off for halftime, Christmas had 11 points, but the Orange was getting beaten on the boards. The Tigers had pulled down almost as many offensive rebounds, seven, as the Orange had defensively, eight.“We stopped them in the first half three or four times in a row,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We did play good defense, stopped them, and they got four putbacks.”A Clemson team that averaged 30.6 first-half points per game going into Saturday’s matchup with the Orange had dropped 39 on the Orange.With 7:57 left in the first half, Joseph was scrambling back to his spot atop the left of SU’s 2-3 zone when Donte Grantham caught the ball at the opposite wing.Cooney stood in front of the CU forward, only to back away, leaving Grantham to fire the Tigers to a 21-9 lead.“Our movement was not there at all,” Cooney said.Neither Cooney nor SU’s next most-experienced player, Gbinije, was about to make up for it on offense. Cooney and Gbinije — who declined to speak to reporters after the game — combined to shoot 1-of-10 from the field in the first half and 4-of-19 for the game.Feeding Christmas was only so much of an option when he found himself surrounded by two or three players at every touch of the ball. Tyler Roberson relieved Christmas on the boards with 13 of his own rebounds, partly because Christmas was doubled up in box outs.The game wasn’t changing. Christmas had no margin for error. Still, at the slightest hint of an SU run, the traveling Syracuse fans rallied up chants of “Let’s Go Orange.”One round went up with about 13:30 left in the game. Joseph had cut CU’s lead to 44-28 on the Orange’s last possession. Christmas got the ball on the next one, only to be surrounded by three Clemson defenders and cough up his lone turnover of the game.Thirteen minutes later, SU had run out of ways to extend the game. Clemson, a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, was giving a former manager the fourth appearance of his career.“We’re going to need to find other ways to win games if guys aren’t making shots,” Joseph said. “We got to find it in our heart to dig out these games.” Comments Published on January 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm Contact Jacob: jmklinge@syr.edu | @Jacob_Klinger_last_img

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