Given another opportunity to win a game that would bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes, Syracuse failed again to take advantage, this time dropping an 84-77 game at Georgia Tech. The Orange (13-8, 7-7 ACC) held a five-point halftime lead and withstood one run from the Yellow Jackets (13-8, 9-6) early in the second half, but gave up two more runs and eventually the game.
SU simply got dominated inside by Georgia Tech. While the battle on the boards was fairly even (41-36, GT), the Jackets piled up 54 points in the paint compared to a measly 24 for Syracuse.
Most of the remainder of the stat sheet was even, save for the assist column. Tech piled up 26 assists on their 33 field goals, helping to explain their 50 percent shooting on the day. The Jackets were particularly proficient in the second half, highlighted by a blistering 63.3 percent field goal shooting mark and logging 17 assists on 19 baskets, including eight dunks.
The Yellow Jackets had things going from the jump, scoring the first eight points of the game. Points five and six came courtesy of a pair of foul shots after Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was assessed a technical foul for charging the court while arguing a foul call against Marek Dolezaj.
That was not the only run of the early minutes for the hosts. After the Orange had chipped the margin down to five, Georgia Tech ran off seven straight points for a double-digit lead at 17-5 less than four-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Alan Griffin took center stage for SU, outscoring the Jackets by a 7-2 margin over the next two minutes and change. Griffin had a three bounce out and in, then connected on a jumped from the right baseline and a leaner from inside the left elbow.
Shortly after Griffin’s outburst, Georgia Tech took advantage of a Syracuse cold snap, scoring six straight points to take their biggest lead of the half at 29-16. The Orange came alive, dominating the final seven-and-a-half minutes before the break by ripping off a 23-5 run bookended by stretches of 11 and eight straight points.
Griffin was the primary source of offense in the first burst. After Joe Girard III made a jumper and Kadary Richmond a free throw, Griffin got a lay-in after snatching a loose ball in the paint. He then connected on a deep straightaway three and swished another bomb, this one from the left break. The junior forward’s eight points came in under a minute and pulled SU within 29-27.
Tech managed to hold on for a couple minutes, but no more. Girard used a fake to free himself to make a jump shot, then Yellow Jacket coach Josh Pastner was assessed a technical foul. Girard made both shots from the line, putting Syracuse in front. Quincy Guerrier swished a three from left of center and Jesse Edwards closed the first half scoring with one free throw to give the Orange a 39-34 lead at intermission.
The Jackets started the second half strong, scoring eight of the first ten points to nose in front, 42-41. SU quickly got back on top via baskets from Buddy Boeheim and Guerrier, then pushed their lead out to 49-45 on a driving lay-up from Griffin.
Georgia Tech answered with seven straight points to trigger an 18-4 avalanche. The hosts closed the burst with eight straight points to grab a 63-53 lead with just over eight minutes on the clock.
Syracuse responded by getting a pair of dunks from Edwards, as Boeheim, then Richmond, set him up on the doorstep on consecutive possessions. The Yellow Jackets responded by pushing the lead back out to ten, but Boeheim made a pair at the stripe and Dolezaj dropped in a lay-up to get within 67-61 with under six minutes to play.
Tech hung the next eight points in under a minute of play, taking their biggest lead of the game at 75-61. The Orange scrapped their way back within arm’s reach with six straight markers to draw within eight, but would not get any closer until a pair of Griffin foul shots made it a 79-72 game with 2:45 to play.
The Jackets rose to the challenge, getting a dunk and a three-pointer after an offensive rebound, stretching their lead out to a dozen with under 90 seconds left, effectively ending the game.
Alan Griffin dominated the first half, scoring 20 of his 26 points and making all four of his triples before the break. Quincy Guerrier added 13 points and Buddy Boeheim tallied ten of his 12 points in the second half. Joe Girard III chipped in with ten points while Jesse Edwards had seven points and a team-leading eight rebounds off the bench.
Moses Wright walloped SU inside all day, rolling up 31 points and 16 rebounds for Georgia Tech. Jordan Usher filled out the stat sheet for the Jackets, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Michael Devoe hit a trio of treys for half his 18 points and Khalid Moore chipped in with nine points.
The Orange start a schedule-closing two-game homestand on Monday night when they face North Carolina. The Tar Heels (15-8, 9-5) have won three of four, including roaring back from a 12-point halftime deficit against #11 Florida State to claim a 78-70 victory on Saturday.
Carolina defeated SU on January 12 in the opener of the season series, 81-75. UNC dominated inside in that contest, getting double-doubles from Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks in the win while Quincy Guerrier had arguably his best game of the season for Syracuse, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks.
Bacot and Brooks are two of four Tar Heels averaging double digits in scoring on the season. While averaging just 8.1 points on the season, Kerwin Walton will have to be a marked man for the Orange, as over 75 percent of his points on the season have come on his team-high 47 threes.
For the second straight week, Monday’s tip-off is set for 7:00pm Eastern with ESPN televising the game.