Syracuse drops heartbreaker to Hokies

SU drops heartbreaker to Hokies

The Orange's firm halftime lead disintegrates in the second half as the Hokies and Jalen Cone win 67-63 in the Carrier Dome.
Published: January 8, 2020
Orange fall short of win against Virginia Tech
Elijah Hughes is fouled by Virginia Tech's Tyrece Radford during a second-half shot of the ACC match in the Carrier Dome.

Early shooting success

Each men’s basketball team scored only two points four minutes into the game, but the Orange then found some points in the form of three-pointers by the usual suspects: Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim. Thanks to their shooting, Syracuse managed to secure an early 12-7 lead at the 12:30 mark.

Much of the Orange’s success in the first half was primarily thanks to the Hokies’ numerous issues with execution. Syracuse shot 52.2% in the opening half, which allowed Virginia Tech very little room for error. They couldn’t match the lights out Orange and hit just five threes on 18 attempts. They threw more up from behind the arc in the first half than Syracuse attempted in the entire game, and it didn’t pay off until much later.

Aside from the errant shots, Virginia Tech committed eight fouls in the first half, while Syracuse only had one. The Orange took advantage of the high foul count and went five for eight on free throws. In a lower-scoring half, those free points made all the difference for Syracuse, and they accounted for five of the six points that the Orange led by at the half.

The Orange had a considerable size advantage (VT is the shortest team in power five), and it showed in the stat-lines of Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj, who pulled down five and four boards, respectively, in the first half. Their activity along the baseline is what forced Tech’s spotty three-point shooting, and with Girard posting ten points in the half, it secured the ‘Cuse a 33-27 lead heading into the break.

Cone comeback

Coming out of the locker room, the ‘Cuse reintroduced themselves with a bucket from Boeheim, a free throw by Elijah Hughes, and a hefty dunk from Guerrier. In that span, a sole layup from Virginia Tech’s John Ojiako wasn’t enough to prevent the Orange from taking a nine-point lead; however, it wouldn’t last long.

Hokie freshman Jalen Cone, who had a mere 3 points in the first half, sank two free throws, then followed it up with a three and another free throw (for good measure). That gash somewhat dampened the Orange’s hopes of pulling away and lowered the lead to five. Hughes answered with another bucket, but P.J. Horne for VT nailed a field goal, which Cone decided to supplement with another three a mere 26 seconds later. One dunk by Landers Nolley II later, and the half was nearly at the midway point. The Hokies had tied it.

Virginia Tech kept their foot on the gas with Cone, Nolley II, and Horne contributing to a 10-point run across two minutes and 21 seconds. Efforts from the Orange allowed them to crawl their way closer to the Hokies late in the game though none of it was helped by Dolezaj fouling out with five and a half minutes left.

Hughes put up 13 points in the second half, including a three from a mile away to keep Syracuse alive with 1:19 left in regulation trailing by a score of 62-59. Last-minute efforts from Guerrier were valiant, but a long field goal just barely on the line by Nolley with eight seconds left sealed Syracuse’s fate as the Hokies ended it 67-63.

Orange fall short of win against Virginia Tech
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim calls defensive plays from the sideline during Tuesday's game against Virginia Tech.

Moving forward

The next matchup for Syracuse (8-7, 1-3 ACC) will be Saturday in Charlottesville against the No. 18 Virginia Cavaliers, who just lost their matchup against the Boston College Eagles. Both teams played a low-scoring affair in their season-opening matchup in November at the Dome with the Cavs prevailing 48-34.

With a pair of losses for both squads, it looks set to be an exciting contest. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 4 p.m.