Games are played a full forty minutes for a reason.
Tuesday night in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse reminded everyone of that reason, even if it took a little extra time in the end. Without possessing the lead at any point during regulation, the Orange made a late rally to force the game into overtime where it stole a 68-60 victory from Virginia Tech.
For most of the evening, Syracuse struggled to keep up with the Hokies, narrowing Virginia Tech’s lead, only to watch it grow time and again. As the final minutes slipped away, it looked as though the Orange was going to come up short with a loss at home.
“This was the first game since I’ve been back… where we just didn’t have it really for 36, 37, 38 minutes,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just didn’t have it. We couldn’t make shots early. We were getting beat.”
Fans in the Dome seemed to agree with Boeheim’s view of the first 38 minutes of the game, as some started to head towards the exits after a Justin Robinson layup gave the Hokies a 55-48 lead with 2:27 left to go.
That all changed when Malachi Richardson nailed a 3-point shot from the corner with 1:37 left in regulation. With Virginia Tech’s lead cut to four, the crowd came back to life and the atmosphere became electric.
An inside pass from Richardson to Tyler Lydon for a dunk right around the one minute mark helped get the crowd fully charged as the game’s momentum shifted Syracuse’s way.
But the Orange still trailed by three as the game approached its final 30 seconds. Firing from deep beyond the arc, Michael Gbinije tied things up at 56-56, drawing a thunderous applause from the already standing fans.
“When he shot it, I was like ‘Oh my god,’ and I watched all the way until it went in,” Richardson said. “Amazing shot. It was a great shot by Mike.”
A year ago, Gbinije propelled the Orange to a comeback win against Virginia Tech in regulation. This time, it was Richardson who took one last shot as time expired, just missing the potentially game-winning basket.
Instead, the Orange and Hokies headed to overtime to battle it out for the victory.
As play resumed, Syracuse fans that might have once been thinking about beating traffic were now focused on beating Virginia Tech. The Orange had seized the momentum during the closing minutes of regulation and they never let it go during the five-minute overtime period.
Gaining their first lead of the night off of a long 2-point jumper from Gbinije, SU eventually built an eight-point lead to close out the Hokies.
“I saw people going home again early there with six points down. I guess that they gave up a little bit,” Boeheim said. “But we didn’t give up. We didn’t give up at all, just kept going and made some unbelievable plays.”
With the win against Virginia Tech, Syracuse improves to 6-5 in conference play, having won six of its last seven games. It is above .500 in the ACC for the first time this season.
“You’ve just got to remind yourself that it’s not over until it’s over,” Gbinije said. “We want to win. We realize we may not have the resume to get in the tournament, so we’re really trying to go full throttle and try to make something happen.”
Staff Writer Kicia Sears contributed to this report.