(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Battle scores 17, Syracuse beats No. 18 Clemson 55-52

Leave a comment

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse finally won a close one at home, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle each scored 17 points and Syracuse rallied to beat No. 18 Clemson 55-52 on Saturday to remain in the hunt for a postseason berth.

It was an opportunity for Syracuse (19-12, 8-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) to fill the biggest void on its resume — the lack of a marquee win — and the Orange capitalized. They were coming off a 15-point loss at Boston College, which put a big dent in their postseason hopes.

“It was extremely important, the biggest win we’ve had all year,” said Battle, who surpassed 1,000 career points with a second-half flurry that jumpstarted a sluggish offense. “For us to gut that one out and get the win is good for us.”

It won’t erase the memory of a four-point loss to North Carolina, a two-point loss to Notre Dame, and an overtime setback to St. Bonaventure, all in the normally friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. At least the anxiety factor dissipated somewhat heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament next week.

“We all knew what was at stake. We’re human beings. We see it,” Howard said. “That just upped our level of play, helped our level of focus all week in practice.”

Clemson (22-8, 11-7) entered the game ranked eighth in RPI and already assured of its first NCAA Tournament berth in seven years. The Tigers finished 4-6 on the road and suffered just their second loss this season after leading at halftime.

“They just outplayed us in the second 20 minutes,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “It was hard to score out there.”

Marcquise Reed had 21 points and Elijah Thomas 18 to lead Clemson as the pair accounted for all 27 Clemson points in the second half. Gabe DeVoe was 2 of 13, 0 of 6 from beyond the arc, for four points, and Shelton Mitchell failed to score despite playing all 40 minutes. DeVoe was averaging 13.3 points and Mitchell 11.9.

Frank Howard finished with 11 points for the Orange, who shot just 30.2 percent (16 of 53) for the game while Battle boosted his career points to 1,006.

Brissett broke a 50-all tie with a pair of free throws after Aamir Simms had missed a corner 3 and Brissett was fouled by Thomas while snaring the rebound. Two free throws by Paschal Chukwu gave the Orange a four-point lead with 90 seconds left, but Reed converted a fast-break layup with 43.6 seconds to go after a miss by Battle to draw Clemson to 54-52.

After Battle missed again at the shot-clock buzzer, Brissett blocked Reed close in with 3.4 seconds left and the Orange survived when DeVoe’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer caromed off the rim.

“You don’t want to give them easy buckets,” Brissett said. “We were able to get our hands up.”

Syracuse’s big three of Battle, Howard, and Brissett combined to shoot 5 of 19, (26.3 percent) for 15 points in the first half, but they all came alive in the second.

Battle scored eight straight points to key an early surge that put the Orange back in front and got the season-high crowd of 28,670 roaring. He drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions and hit a jumper in the lane before Brissett converted a three-point play to give the Orange a 33-30 lead. Howard’s 3 off a screen by the 7-foot-2 Chukwu boosted the lead to six with 14:00 left.

Reed was the lone bright spot for the Tigers early. He drained three 3-pointers to keep them close, his third moving Clemson within 39-36 at 12:17. A three-point play and putback by Thomas and Reed’s floater in the lane tied the game at 43 with just over 9 minutes left.

HE SAID IT

“We just have to play and see what happens (with an NCAA Tournament bid),” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Nobody knows, it’s up to the committee. It’s a tough call. We have to earn what we can in New York (in the ACC Tournament) and see what happens.”

MOTEN’S MOMENT

Syracuse retired the jersey of former star Lawrence Moten at halftime. Moten still holds the school scoring record of 2,334 points, set from 1991-95, which also is the Big East record.

NUMBERS

The Tigers led 25-22 at the break despite shooting 35 percent and hitting just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. The Orange shot 8 of 26 (30.8 percent). Freshman Marek Dolezaj led Syracuse with seven points and leading scorer Battle had only three on 1-of-6 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Clemson entered the game tied for third in the ACC standings and is assured of a berth in the NCAA Tournament no matter how they fare in the conference tourney next week.

Syracuse: The Orange likely still need a strong showing in the ACC Tournament if they hope to nab an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. They’re 0-3 in the conference postseason since joining the ACC five years ago.

UP NEXT:

Clemson: ACC Tournament.

Syracuse: Begins play in the ACC Tournament against Wake Forest on Tuesday. The teams split two games during the season, each winning at home.

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

Donald Miralle/Allsport
Leave a comment

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”