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Wednesday, Jan 08, 2020 at 2:00 am

Virginia Tech’s Second Half Run Hands Syracuse Its Second Straight Loss

By Cooper Boardman

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

On the surface, Tuesday night’s box score shows similar marks for Syracuse and Virginia Tech — maybe even a swing in favor of the Orange.

SU won the rebounding battle, outscored the Hokies in the paint and turned the ball over two fewer times. But, Virginia Tech (11-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) went on a 23-6 second half run that pushed it to its first-ever victory over Syracuse (8-7, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) in the Dome.

“We just couldn’t score,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “And that’s something we’ve gotta do better. I’ve gotta be better getting them moving.”

The Orange controlled the first half, extending their lead to as many as 11 at one point and sitting on top 33-27 at the break. All six players who saw the floor scored at least three points with SU shooting 52% as a team. 

The next 20 minutes were a much different tone; Virginia Tech made 15 of its 19 free throws, while Syracuse stagnated from deep, going 2-10 in the second.

“I just thought we fought like crazy to contest [Elijah] Hughes. And their numbers reflect that,” VT head coach Mike Young said. “We guarded the heck out of them. Maybe it was a greater attention to detail.”

Hughes labored to a team-high 18 points, starting the night 4-13 from the floor and ending at 6-16.

“We got in the lane a couple of times today, and we just didn’t finish, myself included. So I have to get in there and I have to finish. We have to finish,” Hughes said. The Redshirt Junior also put up just two assists, a microcosm for Syracuse’s struggles to move the ball.

The Orange entered the night ranked tenth in the country in assists per game, averaging 17.6 per game. On Tuesday, they managed a season-low six assists in 40 minutes. 

“I think we did a little bit too much with the ball tonight. But you have to against a pressure team. We’re not really good against those types of defenses, and that showed tonight,” Boeheim said.

Boeheim also promised more minutes for Quincy Guerrier after Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, so the freshman played a season-high 25, four more than Bourama Sidibe. Guerrier finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, one board shy of his second-career double-double.

“I just have to be at the right spot and use my physicality, use my speed,” Guerrier said. It was the third impressive performance in four games for the Canadian, highlighted by an and-one putback with less than a minute to go.

But four seconds later, Hokies’ Guard Landers Nolley made two free throws to seal the four-point victory. “Significant win for the Hokies. We are tickled to get out of here with a great one,” Young said.

Syracuse visits Virginia next, who clubbed this Virginia Tech team on Saturday 65-39. Boston College then upset the Cavs on Tuesday night, setting up an opening night rematch with NCAA tournament implications between UVA and Syracuse.

“They’re trying. They’re doing everything they can to win and they want to win,” Boeheim said. “They’re doing the things that they have to do. We just have to get better.”

ckboardm@syr.edu | @cooperkboardman