Syracuse basketball rallies to overcome big lead by Georgia Tech

Hughes Niagara
Syracuse Orange forward Elijah Hughes shoots. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half Saturday, Syracuse came roaring back with possibly their best half of basketball of the season. The Orange (15-12, 8-8 ACC) used three second half runs – one to get back in the game, the next to take the lead, then the last to effectively put away Georgia Tech at the Carrier Dome and grab a 79-72 win.

SU did just about everything well in the second half. They shot 64 percent from the field, outrebounded the Yellow Jackets (13-14, 7-9) by five, and committed just three turnovers after halftime.

While being dependent on three-pointers most of the season, Syracuse made just five in the game, but subsidized that shortage with a 28-for-36 effort at the free throw line. The Orange made all ten of their first half attempts to stay in the game and went 15-of-18 in the final six minutes, matching Georgia Tech’s entire offensive output in that time.

SU took a pair of quick leads, but the Yellow Jackets used a pair of runs to take a double-digit lead in the first nine minutes of action. The first, a 7-0 run, gave the guests the lead and the second, a burst of eight straight points, gave them a 20-9 lead.

Syracuse answered with two successful trips to get within seven, the first coming on a pair of Marek Dolezaj foul shots and the latter on Buddy Boeheim’s pull-up jumper inside the free throw line. Joe Girard III added a deep transition three less than a minute later, pulling the Orange within 22-16.

SU then went scoreless for nearly four minutes, allowing Tech to nudge the lead out to nine. The two teams traded markers until the Yellow Jackets got a three and a dunk on consecutive possessions, pushing their lead out to 34-22 with less than two minutes left in the opening half. Georgia Tech would hold a 38-27 lead at the break.

» Related: Syracuse rallies in second half to top Georgia Tech

Syracuse came out of the locker room flying, getting seven straight points to jumpstart a 12-2 run. Girard rattled home a long three to start things, then added a short push shot from the right baseline. Elijah Hughes used the glass to bank in a short jumper, but the Jackets matched that score. Girard then got a three-point play and Buddy Boeheim curled for a right elbow jumper to cap the run with the Orange within 40-39 just over four minutes into the second half.

Georgia Tech held SU off for five minutes, but then gave up seven more points and the lead. Dolezaj made a nice move to create space for a short bank shot, then Hughes rattled home a jumper from mid-range. Hughes then made one of two from the stripe for the lead and Girard went the distance with a rebound for a lay-up and a 54-51 edge with over eight minutes to play.

Once more, the two squads traded markers until Dolezaj made two free throws, then drove the right side of the key for a lay-up, boosting the lead to five with under five minutes left on the clock.

The Jackets got within two on a set of foul shots with 3:28 to play, but Syracuse responded with an 8-0 run, scoring on four of five possessions. Dolezaj and Hughes each had a pair of free throws, then Dolezaj got a tough leaner off glass to drop. Hughes made two more from the line with 1:25 on the clock, giving the Orange their first double figure lead at 72-62.

Georgia Tech got within five with just under a minute remaining, but SU held on, making six-of-eight at the stripe to keep the Jackets at bay.

Marek Dolezaj and Elijah Hughes tied for team-high honors for Syracuse, scoring 20 points apiece. Dolezaj scored 16 in the second half and made each of his dozen free throws while Hughes handed out seven assists. Joe Girard III had 15 points while Buddy Boeheim added 13. Bourama Sidibe scored six points while grabbing ten rebounds and three steals.

Moses Wright was dominant for Georgia Tech, hitting 14-of-17 shots as he piled up 33 points and ten rebounds. Michael Devoe was the only other Yellow Jacket in double digits, finishing with 11 points. Jose Alvarado and James Banks III each chipped in eight points.

The Orange travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night to wrap their home-and-home set with the Panthers. SU led by 20 in the first half of their initial matchup, then held on late for a 69-61 win against Pitt (15-13, 6-11) at the Carrier Dome in late January. Buddy Boeheim topped Syracuse with 21 points in the game, including 18 in the first half, while Pittsburgh’s top scorer on the season, Justin Champagnie, led them with 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

The Panthers have lost their last four games, three by double digits and the most recent a 59-56 decision at home against Virginia on Saturday afternoon. Xavier Johnson, who averages 11.9 points and a team-best 5.1 assists per game, topped Pitt with 16 points against the Cavaliers.

Wednesday’s action will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern with the ACC Network handling television duties.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 614 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.