ACC Week: Orange, Clemson, Pitt face challenging games - FOX Carolina 21

ACC Week: Syracuse No. 1, tries to stay perfect

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Miami's Donnavan Kirk skies over Duke players for a shot in the Jan. 22 contest. (Source: HurricaneSports.com) Miami's Donnavan Kirk skies over Duke players for a shot in the Jan. 22 contest. (Source: HurricaneSports.com)
Tyler Ennis (11) and the Syracuse Orange are 21-0 with wins over Duke and Pitt in ACC play. (Source: Syracuse University Athletic Communications) Tyler Ennis (11) and the Syracuse Orange are 21-0 with wins over Duke and Pitt in ACC play. (Source: Syracuse University Athletic Communications)

(RNN) - Syracuse hits the court Monday, two days removed from a spectacular win and brandishing the No. 1 ranking, as well as the best record in the program's history.

The thrilling 91-89 overtime win against Duke may have been the game of the year in college basketball. C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant posted career-best totals in points scored - both while playing 40-plus minutes.

With an already short bench for the Orange and a Notre Dame team that can make baskets in bunches coming to town, the potential for a letdown is high.

Monday: Notre Dame (12-10, 3-6) at No. 1 Syracuse (21-0, 8-0), 7 p.m. ET

Eric Atkins made up for a missed free throw that could have won the game at the end of regulation Saturday. His 3-pointer with less than a second left in overtime was the difference in the 76-73 win over Boston College.

The win got them out of an offensive funk - they had failed to break the 60-point mark their last two. One reason for the breakout was the return of Pat Connaughton's shooting touch; he is a dangerous scorer from behind the arc and uses his athleticism well when attacking the lane. Another reason was the effectiveness of little-seen freshman V.J. Beachem, who may have carved out more minutes with the 10-point effort on 4-8 shooting.

Fair played every minute of the Duke showdown and was unstoppable from the field for much of the second half. The weight of the game could be seen for just a moment on the senior's usually expressionless face as he slammed the ball down, letting out a roar and motioning to the crowd.

Underclassmen and upperclassmen alike have showed marvelous composure in several close games this year, something required to go undefeated. Tyler Ennis has established himself in the role of closer, creating opportunities off the dribble with a quick first move and finishing with either hand.

Tuesday: Georgia Tech (12-10, 3-6) at Clemson (14-6, 5-3), 8 p.m. ACC Network

Marcus Georges-Hunt scored a career-best 23 to help the Yellow Jackets overcome injuries and turnovers Saturday to win 79-70 at Wake Forest. The sophomore's aggressiveness has been evident since his classmate Robert Carter Jr. went down, but this was the first time his efforts were also efficient (8-16 shooting, 2-4 on 3-pointers, 5-5 free throws).

The turnovers could become a problem again Tuesday, especially if point guard Trae Golden has not recovered from the pulled groin that caused him to miss most of last game. Daniel Miller's defense remains consistent, but he also needs to produce with points and rebounds every game out for Georgia Tech to win.

The Tigers got back to giving their opponents claustrophobia Saturday after two subpar performances by their defense. That and a 26-point effort by K.J. McDaniels gave them their biggest road win so far, a 53-49 win at Florida State.

The win puts Clemson in fifth place in the ACC and only a half-game back of the next two teams. The team around McDaniels has not been able to make an impact every night-out, but Rod Hall has the skills to manage the game and create shots, while Landry Nnoko displayed solid low-post moves several times this season.

Also Tuesday:

Maryland (13-9, 5-4) at North Carolina (14-7, 4-4), 8 p.m. ACC Network

Wake Forest (14-8, 4-5) at Duke (17-5, 6-3), 9 p.m.

Wednesday: No. 25 Pittsburgh (18-4, 6-3) at Miami (11-10, 2-6), 7 p.m.

The Hurricanes have used a zone defense to stay in games against several quality opponents but rarely gotten the desired result by the end. Their Saturday provided a break from conference actions, instead hosting Norfolk State and dispatching the Spartans, 64-49.

Rion Brown remains the team's most consistent scorer, relying heavily on his accuracy from long distance. Donnavan Kirk has become a potential threat on both sides of the half court line, using his leaping ability to score inside on one end and swat away shots at the other.

Something nearly unheard of happened in Pittsburgh last week: the Panthers dropped two games in a row at the Petersen Events Center. The rabid fan base known as the Oakland Zoo saw their beloved squad fall Monday to Duke 80-65 then to Virginia on Saturday, 48-45.

Lamar Patterson has been Mr. Everything for the team, leading the team in scoring and contributing in rebounds, assists and on defense. His game has noticeably improved from his junior year effort, so the poor shooting in the last two games could only be a blip on the radar. Talib Zanna missed several minutes after turning his ankle in the Virginia game; he is essential to coach Jamie Dixon's signatures - tough defense and offensive rebounding.

Also Wednesday:

Boston College (6-15, 2-6) at No. 20 Virginia (17-5, 8-1), 7 p.m.

Virginia Tech (8-13, 1-8) at Florida State (13-8, 4-5), 9 p.m.

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