A quick take on Syracuse’s 71-69 road win over Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: Leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, and up 49-37 with 14:49 to go, Syracuse saw its once commanding lead whittled down to one point with 40 seconds left to go after Wabissa Bede hit a layup and drew a foul on Elijah Huhges. But Bede would miss the free throw, and Hughes would miss a jumper with 10 seconds left on the ensuing possession to give the Hokies one final shot to win. Out of a timeout, Virginia Tech looked discombobulated, with Landers Nolley II launching a contested 26-foot 3-pointer with three seconds left that barely grazed the side of the rim. Marek Dolezaj corralled the rebound, preserving the Orange’s third ACC win in a row.
ANALYSIS: Since Syracuse’s disappointing 67-63 loss to the Hokies on Jan. 7 that dropped SU to 8-7 overall and 1-3 in conference, the Orange has completely changed its fortunes. Quad 1 wins are awarded for defeating top 75 teams in NET rankings on the road, and Syracuse has collected two in three games with road wins against Virginia (65) and now Virginia Tech (32). On top of that, the Orange is now tied for fourth place in the ACC with the Hokies, both standing at 4-3. Only Duke, Florida State and Louisville (5-1) are ahead in conference. Since Syracuse joined the ACC in the 2013-14 season, the ACC has sent on average 7.3 teams to the NCAA tournament per year and never less than six in a season. It’s still early, and the Orange has plenty of chances to work its way into the NCAA conversation.
HERO: Buddy Boeheim recorded another stellar game, leading all scorers with 26 points, including 18 straight for the Orange in an impressive first half spurt. Boeheim hit six shots in a row during that period, and while jogging back on defense after a made basket, he yelled “he can’t guard me.” Dolezaj chipped in a double-double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Nahiem Alleyne led the Hokies with 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
ZERO: Nolley, who inexplicably took that contested 3-pointer with the game clock winding down, came into Saturday’s contest averaging 18.1 points. He finished with 13 points on just 3-13 shooting from downtown.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will play at Notre Dame on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. The Irish defeated SU 88-87 in the Orange’s first game after the holiday break at the Carrier Dome. TV: ESPN2.