Instant Juice: Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 66

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Syracuse bent, but didn’t break in its first ACC game

A quick take on Syracuse’s 68-66 win over Virginia Tech in the first ACC game of the season:

WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse was up 19 at the half and seemed on its way to an easy win to open conference play. But a 10-0 run midway through the second half from Virginia Tech cut the lead to single digits, and the Hokies would eventually pull to within 51-49 with just over six minutes left. SU regained a double digit lead with 2:22 left, but the Hokies had a chance to win at the buzzer after SU struggled from the free throw line down the stretch. But Malik Muller’s potential game winning 3-pointer from the corner missed, and the Orange escaped.

» Related: Storylines for Syracuse heading into ACC play

ANALYSIS: In a game like this, you could either fault Syracuse for nearly coughing up a 19-point halftime lead, or credit them for keeping its composure on the road after the home team was within a basket with plenty of time left on the clock. But as Syracuse.com’s Brent Axe likes to say, free throws matter, and that alone nearly cost SU a win. Syracuse was 16-28 from the line for the game, and more importantly, 6-15 in the final two minutes. No one was free from blame, with Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas, Tyler Roberson, Michael Gbinije and Ron Patterson all missing free throws.

HERO: Roberson played most of the second half in place of an ineffective Chris McCullough, and finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, eight of them on the offensive glass. Christmas chipped in 17 points and 9 rebounds, fouling out both of Virginia Tech’s big men. Justin Bibbs led VT with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

ZERO: Va. Tech’s starting backcourt of Adam Smith and David Wilson were a combined 6 for 23 from the field and 1-9 from downtown. While Patterson contributed eight points off the bench, he missed four of six free throws in the final 42 seconds of the game and was 0-4 from downtown.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange stay on the road, traveling to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. TV: ESPNU.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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