Once again, the Syracuse offense struggled enough that they could never get over the hump, dropping a 55-51 game at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (11-11, 4-5) went post-to-post against the shorthanded Orange (15-7, 4-5 ACC), who fell behind just over two minutes into the game and never took the lead.
Down to six healthy players with Howard Washington shelved by an injury in practice on Monday and Matthew Moyer only able to play for a very brief stretch in the first half, SU was woeful on offense throughout the night, stringing three successful possessions together only twice in the game.
Syracuse shot only 30 percent from the field, including 27.8 percent from deep, more than offsetting the 33.3 percent shooting by Tech, including a matching three-point shooting mark. The Orange also committed 15 turnovers in the game, further tanking their hopes.
Holding a 6-5 lead over seven minutes into the game, Georgia Tech rang up eight straight points to take control. It was just after the midpoint of the half when a Frank Howard jumper ended the GT streak, but the Yellow Jackets added a three-point-play for a 17-7 lead.
The Orange struck back with their best stretch of the game, stringing an 11-4 run together. Tyus Battle started the run by rattling home a three, then Marek Dolezaj was fouled on a dunk attempt and made one foul shot. After a Tech basket, Howard hit a short jumper from the right baseline and Battle fed Dolezaj for a lay-in. Oshae Brissett followed another GT bucket with a three-point-play to get SU within 21-18 with a little over a minute left in the opening half.
The Jackets got a three in the final minute, but Howard replied in kind, beating the shot clock for the final score of the half and cutting the Georgia Tech lead to 24-21 at halftime.
Syracuse got within two after three minutes of second half play, but went through a drought of over four minutes as the Jackets stretched the margin back out to 32-25. A Brissett slam got the Orange within four, but the hosts pushed the lead back out to 38-29 just after the middle of the half.
Following a pair of Bourama Sidibe foul shots, SU turned on their full-court press. The change in tempo helped momentarily, as Howard pushed the ball after a GT miss and fed Dolezaj for a one-handed slam. Brissett then got a steal and turned it into a two-handed dunk to make it 38-35 in favor of the Jackets with under nine minutes to go.
Georgia Tech continued having answers for every Syracuse threat, though, immediately pushing their lead to seven. The Orange got within four, but the Yellow Jackets doubled that lead, in part by making three free throws after Howard earned a tech after Dolezaj was whistled for a foul.
Battle would not let SU go quietly, swishing a left wing three and draining a pair from the line to bring the Orange within 51-48 with 1:37 left. Once again, Tech responded, getting a putback score and stealing a pass that led to a breakaway jam for a 55-48 lead with 43 seconds left.
Howard swished a long three to make it a four-point contest and the Dolezaj fouled to stop the clock. The Tech foul shot was errant, but the Orange struggled to get a shot off until Battle airballed a three. The Jackets rebounded and turned the ball over after a long outlet pass misfired, but SU could only get a missed Howard three before the final horn.
Tyus Battle topped the Orange with 19 points, but needed to hit all nine of his foul shots to offset his 4-for-17 mark from the floor, and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard each added 11 points, with the latter matching Battle’s poor marksmanship.
Josh Okogie led all scorers with 20 points, including making three triples. Tadric Jackson added 15 points for the Jackets and Ben Lammers had a double-double of 11 points and a dozen rebounds.
Syracuse returns home for their next game, a rematch with #2 Virginia. The Cavaliers (21-1, 10-0), who defeated the Orange in Charlottesville on January 9, 68-61, carry a 13-game winning streak into the Carrier Dome.
Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett combined for 34 points for SU in the first game between the two schools while the Cavs’ top scorer, Kyle Guy, rained in five three-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points.
The return match sets up to be another defensive struggle for the Orange. The top defensive team in the nation in points allowed, Virginia is third-nationally in field goal percentage allowed and fifth in three-point percentage allowed. SU is 14th nationally in points allowed per game and fourth in field goal percentage allowed.
Saturday’s action will get underway from the Carrier Dome at 4:00pm Eastern. The game will be televised in certain markets by the ACC Network and that telecast will be available on ESPN3.com.