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Wednesday, Jan 11, 2017 at 12:54 am

Syracuse’s bad defensive habits return, fall to Virginia Tech 83-73

By Matt Reil BLACKSBURG, VA — After two straight ACC wins, things were starting to look up for Syracuse basketball until they reverted back to old habits on Tuesday night.

The Orange (10-7, 2-2 ACC) fell to Virginia Tech (13-3, 2-2 ACC), 83-73 at Cassell Coliseum. The biggest reason for SU’s demise was their defense inside the paint.

“I thought our interior defense was not good in either half,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said, “and I thought that was a big key.”

It was definitely a big key to Virginia Tech, building an eight-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game that included three uncontested dunks by the Hokies.

“They were making the direct pass from the perimeter, which has never happened to us,” Boeheim said. “The forwards were not moving. We just weren’t in good position. Our center wasn’t in good position.”

VT’s Zach LeDay and Chris Clarke combined for 39 points and 13 rebounds in the game and helped Virginia Tech slice through the 2-3 zone for 36 points in the paint.

The 83 points allowed by the Orange was a major regression from the previous two games when Syracuse allowed an average of 60.5 to Miami and Pittsburgh.

“I think they forgot we won two games in a row because our defense was good,” Boeheim said. “Our defense was horrendous tonight.”

Another reason Syracuse won two games in a row was great guard play, another thing that went missing on Tuesday.

“Our point guard play was really bad tonight,” Boeheim said. “As bad as it’s ever been.”

“I take the blame for how we started this game”, said SU point guard John Gillon. “I didn’t play well and I will be better.”

Gillon was 2-for-9 from the floor with only three assists after posting a double-double in the previous game. Back-up point guard Frank Howard had only 2 points on 1-5 shooting with four assists.

Syracuse’s next game will be Saturday at the Carrier Dome against Boston College, a team they were blown out by just a couple weeks ago. If they want any chance at redemption, both the defense and the point guards will need to step up.