U.S. College basketball - Season 2017-18 - Second review (December 2017 and January 2018)

Here are the summaries of two good NCAA basketball games watched on YouTube lately:

Clemson Tigers vs. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns: 89-60 (played on 2017-12-22)
Score at the half: 43-28.

Clemson had a quick start in this game which took place at the Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, South Carolina: the scoreboard showed 5-0 after a few minutes. Louisiana reacted well and evened the game afterwards. Ragin' Cajuns' player Frank Bartley IV (6'3", guard, age 23) performed very well and Louisiana even took an advantage: 7-8. Donte Grantham (6'8", forward, age 22) was pretty efficient for the Tigers in the beginning of the game, marked by strong and well organized defenses on both sides. The Tigers played as a team and hit shots after having isolated players. Clemson recorded a 8-0 run, forcing Louisiana's Head Coach Bob Marlin to take a much needed timeout (15-8). Both defenses remained impressive. Frank Bartley was definitely the Ragin' Cajun who showed most fighting spirit in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Shelton Mitchell (6'3", guard, age 23) suddenly got in action for the Tigers. He hit a tear-drop shot and some free throws to make 21-14 and even 23-14 moments later. It remained a rather defensive game with rejections, deflections, steals, etc. The Tigers turned the ball over several times too. Louisiana's strong man Justin Miller (6'7", forward, age 21) was nevertheless unable to finish the job in offense and Clemson took the opportunity to extend its lead: 26-16 with more or less 6 minutes to go in the first half.

Donte Grantham looked fit and well as he tipped the ball in twice and finished a fastbreak play with a dunk to make 35-20, therefore scoring his 1,000th point in his NCAA career. Frank Bartley again and junior playmaker Marcus Stroman (6'2", guard) tried all they could to boost the other Ragin' Cajuns. Efforts done by Croatia's shooter Davis Skara (6'8", forward, age 22), coming off the bench, and Shelton Mitchell did not seem enough to stop the Cajuns who were back at 37-28. Donte Grantham and David Skara hit big three-pointers for the Tigers who quickly built a new competitive advantage: 43-28 right before halftime.

The Ragin' Cajuns looked unable to create shots and always seemed under pressure thus far. Shelton Mitchell was the man to watch, with the dish to Elijah Thomas (6'9", forward, age 21) who finished the job in a very nice manner in the paint. Thomas, also very mobile and present in defense, took time to concentrate when shooting free-throws from the line and the scoreboard showed 47-30. The duel between both guards Bartley and Mitchell was worth to watch. Marcquise Reed (6'3", guard, age 22) reminded observers and Tigers' fans that he is Clemson's best downtown bombs scorer and made 52-36. Marcus Stroman scored most of the points for Louisiana (56-43) but the Tigers kept things under control. All of a sudden, there was more scoring. The score progressed as follows: 63-48 after 10 minutes in the second half, 70-53 and 75-56 with 5 minutes remaining in this game. Both freshmen Clyde Trapp (6'5", shooting guard) of Clemson and Cedric Russell (6'2", guard, age 18) of Louisiana hit treys. The Tigers had nevertheless a very comfortable lead. Elijah Thomas had spectacular plays and dunks in the second half. He helped his team dig the gap: 81-56, 84-58 and 89-60 as final score. On both sides, several players also came off the bench and buried shots from long range in the last minutes of the matchup.

Best scorers:
Clemson Tigers: Donte Grantham 17, Gaby DeVoe 7, Marcquise Reed 8, Shelton Mitchell 15, David Skara 11, Elijah Thomas 15, Scott Spencer 5, Anthony Oliver II 3, Clyde Trapp 8.
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns: Jakeenan Gant 4, Bryce Washington 4, Marcus Stroman 16, Frank Bartley IV 14, Malik Marquetti 3, Justin Miller 4, Larenz Stalcup 4, Cedric Russell 8, Johnathan Stove 3.

Syracuse Orangemen vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 49-51 (played on 2018-01-06)
Score at the half: 28-19.

Very low temperatures (wind chill: -17°F or -27°C) and much snow outside the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York on Jan. 6th, 2018... Quite the contrary inside the arena hosting a huge attendance for a much awaited Atlantic Coast Conference classic showcase: Syracuse vs. Notre Dame. Both excellent Notre Dame players Matt Farrell (6'1", guard, age 21) and Bonzie Colson (6'6", forward, senior) were missing due to injuries. The Fighting Irish with Rex Pflueger (6'6", guard, age 21) at playmaking were wearing their green outfit. The hosts scored first: 0-1. The score evolved slowly in favour of the Orangemen led by a very inspired Tyus Battle (6'6", guard, age 20) afterwards: 7-1. Notre Dame's first field goal was scored after 6 minutes of play in this game: 9-3. Both teams turned the ball over too often. It was a defensive match and all observers quickly understood that it would turned into a low-scoring basketball game. Nigerian big man Paschal Chukwu (7'2", center, age 22) showed all his talent in the paint, especially in defense where he had two huge blocks in a row. The scoreboard showed 10-3 after 10 minutes in the first half. Only Temple Gibbs (6'4", guard, sophomore) looked able to score for the Irish who came back in the race at 10-8. Syracuse of Coach Jim Boeheim quickly got back on the right track, forcing Coach Mike Brey to take a new timeout for Notre Dame. with 7'44" left in the first period (15-8). Tyus Battle had performed well again. Franklin Howard (6'5", guard, age 20) also looked fit and well for the Orangemen. After 15 minutes in the first half, the scoreboard showed 17-12 and Notre Dame had recorded turnovers again. Gibbs had some response but... it was still 25-15 on a trey by the Canadian young prospect Oshae Brissett (6'8", forward, age 19) for 'Cuse. It was also interesting to watch the other young Syracuse player Marek Dolezaj (6'9", forward, age 19) from Slovakia who looks thin but shows some goodwill and is very mobile. Thanks to Frank Howard's great shooting skills, the Orangemen digged the gap despite Temple TJ Gibbs' efforts before the break: 28-19 at halftime. Notre Dame had a very poor field goal percentage of 6/29 at the break.

The clock needed to be repaired after a few seconds of play in the second half. Once the problem was fixed, the second period started well for Rex Pflueger and the Irish. It was even a 1-point game when DJ Harvey (6'7", small forward, age 19) hit a three-pointer to make 28-27. Brissett also hit a shot from downtown for Syracuse to make 33-27 after 5 minutes in the second period. Despite nice efforts in offense by Cuse's Tyus Battle, observers could notice some improvement on the Fighting Irish's side. The scoreboard displayed 38-33 with 10 minutes left in the game. Notre Dame kept outrebounding the Orangemen in the contest, making Coach Jim Boeheim unhappy. Fans of both sides witnessed many missed shots at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 6th, 2018. Pflueger brought his team back into the game at 38-37, forcing Boeheim to take a timeout with 6'32" to go. After 42-41 with 4'40" left, it was then 44-43 a few moments later when Coach Mike Brey took a timeout for Notre Dame despite a nice and impressive dunk by his Lithuanian player Martinas Geben (6'10", forward, age 23). The Fighting Irish had several chances to take the lead in this game. After three opportunities, they did it on a free throw. The game suddenly turned out to be a real thriller. Syracuse trailed behind 46-47 with just 60 seconds remaining on the clock. Martinas Geben superbly played his role of clutch player and grabbed crucial rebounds (14 on the whole that night). It was 46-49 and Jim Boeheim had to take a new timeout which had a nice effect on his team. His player Tyus Battle tied the game at 49-49 on a great three-point shot indeed. After nicely intercepting the ball, TJ Gibbs ran the fastbreak as the clock was ticking down. With just a few seconds to go, Notre Dame's guard quickly approached the basket and attempted a lay-up. The lay-up was challenged and missed by Gibbs but his mate Rex Pflueger, on an offensive rebound, managed to put up the decisive off-balance shot for the win over the Orangemen. Final score: 51-49 for Notre Dame after an amazing end of game.

Best scorers:
Syracuse Orangemen: Oshae Brissett 10, Paschal Chukwu 2, Tyus Battle 21, Frank Howard 10, Marek Dolezaj 2, Bourama Sidibe 4.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Austin Torres 2, Martinas Geben 4, DJ Harvey 4, Rex Pflueger 12, TJ Gibbs 18, Elijah Burns 7, John Mooney 4.

(Pictures: Brad Kemp/RaginCajuns.com, TheKeyPlay.com, FIBA and USA Today Sports)

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