A quick take on Syracuse’s tough-to-swallow 71-59 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday night, in front of a raucous sellout crowd at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.:
WHAT HAPPENED: In a battle of hot teams who each had won an ACC-best four straight games heading into the matchup, Syracuse (13-12,7-7) fell behind 39-29 at halftime and made a furious comeback that came up short. SU tied the game at 54-54 with 6:53 to play, before Virginia Tech finished with a 17-5 run to pull away and end the ‘Cuse winning streak. SU got cold late from three-point shooting distance going 1-for-11 down the stretch, and only scored those five points over the final 6:53 of the game. Buddy Boeheim was the game’s high-scorer with 21 points, and Joe Girard with 16 were the only SU players in double-figures in a losing cause.
ANALYSIS: In the Orange’s first game playing without injured starting center Jesse Edwards, Frank Anselem made his first career start and was impressive underneath on the boards finishing with a game-high 15 rebounds, keeping several offensive opportunities alive, and added six points. Bourama Sidibe saw limited time off the bench behind Anselem, but quickly picked up three personal fouls in four minutes of action. The problem throughout the game for SU, besides going cold late, was that Virginia Tech (15-10, 7-7) found passing lanes in and around the SU zone to the tune of 20 assists, and 26 points in the paint, off-setting the Hokies 1-for-9 3-point shooting in the second half.
HERO: Virginia Tech forward Justyn Mutts recorded just the second triple-double in Tech history. The 6-7 forward, an impressive passer, had a game-high 11 assists to go along with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Fellow forward Keve Aluma had a team-high 20 points, hurting the Orange by scoring all around the basket, and getting to the foul line hitting 6-of-8 free throws.
ZERO: A common theme in Syracuse’s 12 losses this season has been being sloppy with the ball. SU had eight first half turnovers and 11 for the game matching its season average, and those miscues resulted directly in 17 Hokies points in a game decided by 12 points. A recent hot-shooting Cole Swider cooled off finishing with eight points on 4-of-13 shooting and going 0-for-5 beyond the arc.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse has its only week off between games in ACC play before hosting Boston College in a quick rematch in the Dome next Saturday, February 19. SU defeated the Eagles 73-64 this past Tuesday night in Chestnut Hill. The BC game is also the beginning of a streak of the Orange playing five games over a nine day span. Boston College (9-14, 4-9) lost at home Saturday night to Duke 72-61, and plays at Notre Dame on Wednesday. Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU.