Syracuse basketball’s second-half surge subdues Virginia Tech

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Jan 23, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier (1) tries to move past Virginia Tech Hokies forward Justyn Mutts (25) in the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday afternoon, Syracuse gave up ten straight points to fall behind by five in the first half, but roared back to claim a 78-60 home victory over #16 Virginia Tech. The Orange (9-4, 3-3 ACC) used an 11-1 run to take the lead for good before halftime, then a 20-4 stretch in the second half to put the game on ice.

SU trailed 26-21 with under seven minutes left in the opening session, but shut down the guests’ offense after falling behind. From that point on, the Hokies (11-2, 5-1) shot under 29 percent from the field and just 2-for-16 from three-point range. Prior to that, VT had done most of their damage from deep, making 6-of-13 from long range, including four triples from Nahiem Alleyne.

Meanwhile, Syracuse rang up 59 points in the same time, shooting just under 56 percent from the floor and making 15-of-16 from the charity stripe in the final two-thirds of the game. The Orange were successful by pounding away inside the arc, particularly in the key, rolling up a 46-24 advantage in points in the paint.

Virginia Tech had the advantage early, tallying seven straight points for a 10-4 lead in the opening five minutes of play. SU bounced right back, hanging 11 straight points to take the lead, everything coming from interior play.

Alan Griffin scored twice on putbacks, the latter a slam, around a short flip from Marek Dolezaj. Quincy Guerrier threw down a fast break dunk off a nice pass from Buddy Boeheim as the front end of a three-point play, putting Syracuse on top. Joe Girard III finished the streak by burrowing beneath the free throw line for a jumper and a 15-10 lead.

Two-and-a-half minutes later, the Hokies set off on their own double-digit run, piling up ten unanswered points for a 26-21 advantage. A couple Orange scores ate up most of the margin, but Tech held on for a couple more minutes.

SU then seized control with seven straight points to open an 11-1 run. Kadary Richmond opened the streak by backing down for a short push shot, then Guerrier added two foul shots and Boeheim shook free long enough to rattle in a trey. A Virginia Tech free throw stopped the bleeding, but Boeheim coaxed a fadeaway jumper through the rim and Dolezaj tacked on two from the stripe for a 40-32 lead.

The Hokies got a pair of free throws before the break, then continued chipping away at the Syracuse lead, twice getting within three. The Orange responded with seven straight points to ignite a big run, this one a 20-4 avalanche to secure a 19-point lead.

Girard, Griffin, and Guerrier did all the scoring in the five-and-a-half-minute eruption. Griffin led the way with nine points, including a triple and a fast break tomahawk slam off a Girard lead pass. Guerrier backed him with eight points, including the final six markers as SU took control at 67-48 with just over seven minutes to play.

Just over 100 seconds later, Syracuse put the game away with a 9-0 run. Richmond did most of the work in this span, starting with a pair of free throws and a three-pointer from above the right break. Dolezaj slipped behind the defense for a lay-up, then Richmond sealed the burst with a turnaround jumper that settled in the net to boost the Orange to a 78-53 lead with two minutes to play.

» Related: Syracuse notches second rout in a row, this time against Va. Tech

Quincy Guerrier paced the SU attack with 20 points and nine rebounds. Marek Dolezaj scored 18 points, 14 of them in the opening half. Alan Griffin had a monster game, posting a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double with a career-high seven blocks. Kadary Richmond chipped in with 13 points off the bench.

Nahiem Alleyne led the way for the guests with 20 points with 17 coming in the first half. He hit five three-pointers on the day, but went scoreless in the second half until making a three in the game’s final minute. David N’Guessan and Tyrece Radford also reached double figures with 10 points apiece. Justyn Mutts added nine points and a team-high eight rebounds to the Hokie effort.

The Orange will hit the road for their next game, heading to #13 Virginia for a Monday night matchup. The Cavaliers stand atop the ACC standings with a 6-0 conference mark and a 10-2 overall record. They have won six straight games, including Saturday night’s 64-62 home win over Georgia Tech.

Four different players average double digits for Virginia, led by Sam Hauser, who tops the team with 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Jay Huff posts 13.3 points and 2.5 blocks per contest while guards Trey Murphy III and Kihei Clark combine for 20.6 points a game, the former leading the team with 27 triples on 51 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

ESPN will televise Monday night’s Syracuse-Virginia game, which will tip off at 7:00pm Eastern.

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About Jim Stechschulte 696 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.