Syracuse 68, Virginia Tech 66 — What we learned

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Virginia Tech’s potential game-winner with one second fell short

Syracuse hung on for a 68-66 win against Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon. Here are a few thoughts from the game:

FREE THROWS MATTER

In the last 42 seconds, Michael Gbinije and Ron Patterson took a combined eight free throws, and hit only three of them. Their struggles from the line allowed Virginia Tech to cut into a seven point lead and Malik Muller ended up with an opportunity to win the game with a corner 3-pointer following a pair of misses from Patterson with five seconds left.

“Mike and Ronny, they’re very good free throw shooters, and they weren’t up to it today,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Ronnie said, ‘It was close.’ I said, ‘Close? Really? Close? We’re in college here. This isn’t high school.’ My kids when they were in eighth grade said that. Close isn’t helpful here. That was the quote of the year for me.”

Overall, Syracuse went 16-28  (57 percent) from the line and 6-15 in the final two minutes.

“Those two guys [Patterson and Gbinije] are good free throw shooters, and you’ve got to make them in that situation,” Boeheim said. “Hopefully we’ll make those free throws next time, make it a little easier.”

» Related: Syracuse holds off Virginia Tech after blowing huge lead

ROBERSON THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

Boeheim called reserve forward Tyler Roberson’s performance a ‘difference maker’ after Roberson hauled in a game-high 17 rebounds (eight offensive). The sophomore also chipped in 11 points, two of them coming on a key baseline jumper with 2:43 remaining.

Roberson played just 22 minutes in SU’s previous game against Cornell, but played 30 minutes against the Hokies. Many of his second half minutes came at the expense of Chris McCullough.

“He didn’t do much the last game, but tonight he was very active,” Boeheim said. “I tried to save Chris. I thought Rak would be in foul trouble. […] Tyler was very good.”

Roberson matched his career-high, which came against Louisiana Tech earlier in the year.

PAST EXPERIENCE HELPS SYRACUSE

Syracuse consistently gets lambasted on a yearly basis for playing a weaker non-conference schedule while never leaving New York State. But this year, SU has played true road games against Villanova and Michigan. Even though SU eventually lost both of those games, on Saturday, the experience from both of those games helped.

“We’ve had tough road games. I think Villanova and Michigan helped us,” Boeheim said. “Those were two really difficult games and we didn’t make enough plays. So we’ve had those games.”

In both games, turnovers doomed the Orange’s chances of an upset. While Syracuse nearly blew a 21-point lead, it didn’t have anything to do with late turnovers.

“We still only turned it over eight times. They just did a better job getting in our defense,” Boeheim said. “As much as I’m upset with our defense, if our offense had been any good at all, they would’ve gotten back in the game, but it would’ve been a 10 point game.”

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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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