Saturday night, Syracuse found out the hard way that Georgia Tech has one of the best defenses in the country. The Yellow Jackets (10-6, 2-1 ACC) came into the contest standing tenth in the nation in defensive efficiency and hounded the Orange (11-5, 2-1) into their worst shooting night of the season, cruising to a 73-59 win at the Carrier Dome.
SU made just 31.6 per cent of their field goals and shot 21.2 percent on three-pointers while taking the most shots from behind the arc of any game this season. Tech fared differently, hitting 59.5 percent from the floor, including 6-of-12 from three-point land. In fact, the Jackets hit 9-of-10 shots, including four straight threes, in posting a decisive 22-5 run to blow the game open early in the second half.
Trailing early in the first half, Georgia Tech put together three straight successful possessions, netting seven points and jumping out to a 13-8 lead. Syracuse responded with their best offensive play of the half.
Elijah Hughes hit a pull-up to get the Orange offense going, then converted a skip pass from Frank Howard into a right corner three that tied the game. Hughes then made one of two free throws for an SU lead. The Yellow Jackets tied the score, then Howard connected on a trey from the right wing against the shot clock and Buddy Boeheim followed another Tech foul shot with a three of his own for a 20-15 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the opening half.
Syracuse stayed in front until Georgia Tech got a three-point-play and a jump shot for a 27-25 lead in the final minute of the half. Tyus Battle got one of two free throws to trim the gap to a single point at halftime.
After each team got a single basket to start the second half, the Jackets blew the game wide open. Georgia Tech needed less than five-and-a-half minutes to drop a 22-5 run on the Orange and take a commanding 51-33 lead less than eight minutes into the second session. Jim Boeheim tried multiple combinations of personnel in that time, but to no avail.
SU tried to fight back, rolling up eight straight points. Howard dropped in a lay-up and Boeheim connected on back-to-back threes, bringing the Dome crowd to life and the Orange within 51-41 while forcing a Tech time out as the midpoint of the second half approached.
The break helped the Yellow Jackets right their ship and they immediately stretched the lead to 13. The Syracuse went cold again, logging nearly four scoreless minutes of action as Tech extended their lead back out to 17 points.
Despite employing their press with some success, the Orange never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
Oshae Brissett paced the Orange with 15 points, but had eight of those points in the final four minutes with the game no longer in doubt. Elijah Hughes struggled from deep, going 1-of-8 on threes, but finished with 12 points. Tyus Battle had 11 points, Buddy Boeheim nine (all on threes), and Frank Howard eight.
Jose Alvarado commanded the game for Georgia Tech, making 5-of-6 shots, including posting a 3-of-3 line from deep, as he piled up 19 points. James Banks III rang up 16 points while Curtis Haywood II had 15. Abdoulaye Gueye chipped in with ten points and Evan Cole added eight.
SU travels to #1 Duke for a Monday night matchup with the Blue Devils. Duke is 14-1 on the season, including a 3-0 start in ACC play. Since losing to then-#3 Gonzaga, the Blue Devils have rolled up nine straight wins.
Two superb freshmen lead Duke. R.J. Barrett is averaging 23.4 points per game, hitting just under two threes per game and 46.6 percent from the field overall. Zion Willliamson shoots just under 67 percent from the field as he averages 20.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Williamson suffered an eye injury in the Blue Devils’ Saturday win over Florida State and his availability for Monday night’s game is unknown.
Monday’s action will start at 7:00pm Eastern with ESPN handling the telecast, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.