Tuesday night, #2 Syracuse relied on their defense for a long span in the second half, enabling them to pull away for a 72-52 road win against Virginia Tech. The offense for the Orange slowly kicked in during that time and they gradually unspooled 16 consecutive points that turned a tight contest into one clearly under their control.
The decisive second half run propelled SU to a 15-0 mark for the third time in four seasons and improved their ACC record to 2-0. The Hokies slid to 8-6 overall and 1-1 in conference action.
The glaring difference between the two schools’ stat lines after the game was the battle of the boards, which was in Syracuse’s favor, 41-25. The Orange also improved their shooting in the second half, connecting on 51.7 percent (15-of-29) of their shots after the intermission, while holding Virginia Tech to 32 percent shooting (8-of-25) from the floor during that same time. Nine of the Hokies’ missed shots came during their dry spell in the second when SU took control.
Trevor Cooney opened the game’s scoring for Syracuse with a long three-pointer, but the Hokies came back with two bombs of their own to grab a 6-3 lead. The Orange came back with a 10-2 run to take a 13-8 lead. Jerami Grant led the way with three shots in the burst, including a pair of jumpers.
Virginia Tech hit a three to slice into the SU lead, but Cooney matched it, then Tyler Roberson hit a jumper off the bench to nudge the Orange lead to 18-11. Syracuse continued to push the lead out from there. C.J. Fair’s long jump shot put them up by double figures for the first time with nine minutes left in the half, then Cooney added a nice drive to make it a 27-15 game.
Virginia Tech climbed back within 28-20, but Grant then turned in the defensive highlight of the half, violently rejecting a dunk attempt. The Hokies were undeterred and shaved two more points off the lead, but Tyler Ennis stopped the momentum, burying an open three to put SU back up by nine.
The two squads alternated scores for the remainder of the half until VT hit a long three with just over a minute left in the opening session. It would prove to be the final tally of the opening 20 minutes and pulled the hosts within 35-29 at halftime.
Fair opened the second half with an aggressive drive for two, then Rakeem Christmas cleaned up another Fair foray with a tip-in to put the Orange up by ten. The Hokies continued to hang around, getting a three out of the first media timeout of the half to get within 44-38, then added a jumper to get within four.
Syracuse then took control of the game with their defense. That last bucket by Virginia Tech was their final score for over eight-and-a-half minutes and SU strung together enough offense to give themselves a nice cushion in that span.
Ennis was left open for a three and made Tech pay, rattling it home, then, after a Grant charity shot, found Fair in transition for an easy two-handed dunk. After Grant added a three-point-play and Fair hit a short jumper, Ennis got into the act again, swishing a deep trey. Fair closed the 16-0 run by hitting from just inside the arc to give SU a 60-40 advantage with under seven minutes to play.
The game was essentially decided at that point, as Syracuse kept the margin between 18 and a game-high 22 points before the final horn.
For the second consecutive outing, C.J. Fair took home the game’s high scoring honors, finishing the night with 17 points, including 12 after halftime. Tyler Ennis aided the SU cause with 13 points while Jerami Grant collected his second double-double of the year, finishing with a dozen points and ten boards. Trevor Cooney also reached double figures, finishing with 11 points. Baye Moussa Keita fell one rebound shy of double figures off the bench.
C.J. Barksdale was the lone Virginia Tech player in double digits, ending the night with 12 points. Ben Emelogu and Adam Smith each chipped in with nine for the hosts.
Saturday afternoon, the Orange return home to take on North Carolina at the Carrier Dome. The Tar Heels (10-4, 0-1) have a had an up-and-down season to this point, knocking off two teams that were rated in the top five nationally when they met in Louisville and Michigan State, but also dropping matches with Belmont and Alabama-Birmingham, the former at home.
UNC, who hosts Miami (Fla.) on Wednesday, boasts five players who average double figures in scoring, led by point guard Marcus Paige, who posts 17.6 points and 4.1 assists per outing. James Michael McAdoo in second on the team with 14.6 points per game.
Noon Eastern is the tip on Saturday and the game will be televised on ESPN. The contest will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.