Syracuse Men’s Basketball Falls to No. 10 Virginia Tech
By Adam Unger
CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter
It was a record breaking night in Cassell Coliseum on January 26—just not for Syracuse. Senior guard Justin Robinson’s career night for Virginia Tech led to him capturing the program’s single-game three-point field goal record and all-time assist record.
Robinson’s 35 points and 8 assists propelled No. 10 Virginia Tech (16-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast) to an emphatic 78-56 win over Syracuse (14-6, 5-2). Syracuse’s 2-3 zone seemed like it couldn’t even find the senior, let alone contest a shot.
“Tonight we just didn’t recognize where he was. You know, he’s shooting with nobody within ten feet of him. Our defense very seldom has allowed anybody to do that,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just didn’t do a good job of locating him.”
Both teams traded three pointers early in the game, but Virginia Tech maintained a lead with tight man-to-man defense. The Hokies were pressuring SU up to five feet beyond the three-point line and doubling any ball screen the Orange tried to set.
“They were playing really great help defense,” junior guard Tyus Battle said. “I mean, they were playing the driving lanes before we even drove, so it was tough.”
Every time VT built upon their lead and brought their fans back into the game, Syracuse was somehow able to always come up with a three-pointer or a dunk to quiet down the crowd. Then, Robinson could do no wrong.
For a five-minute span in the first half, he contributed to every Hokie point on a 14-5 run: Robinson had an assist, three free throws, and three field goals from behind the arc.
Syracuse called a timeout to try to stop the bleeding, but Robinson had other plans. He hit two more threes before going into the locker room. Virginia Tech led 43-24 at the break.
“It’s basketball. You know, runs are going to happen, and it was time for us to have our run,” sophomore forward Oshae Brissett said.
In the first four minutes of the second half, the Orange held Virginia Tech scoreless. Syracuse had suddenly cut the Hokies’ lead down from 19 points to just eight. It was just business as usual for the Orange.
“It wasn’t like a rah-rah speech. We know what time it is when it’s like that,” senior guard Frank Howard said. “We gave it our all coming out. We had a few plays where we gave something up and still didn’t make the right read on either end, and that really what hurt us.”
But after coming out hot, Syracuse went cold once again. The Orange didn’t score from the field for over seven minutes. By the time Howard finally brought the dry spell to an end with a three-pointer, Virginia Tech was leading by 18 again.
“We tried all of the things that we have [on offense],” Boeheim said. “Well, I had two or three things I didn’t use, that I thought, ‘I wanted to save them.’”
For the last ten minutes of the game, Syracuse trailed by at least 15 points. Boeheim took a timeout with 3:46 to go and a 71-46 deficit. He pulled Battle, Howard, and Brissett in exchange for all three scholarship freshmen.
About a minute later, Robinson received a standing ovation as he checked out of the game. He gave a wave to the fans in Cassell Coliseum as he left the floor.
There’s one positive takeaway from the loss for Syracuse: the return of Oshae Brissett. The sophomore led the Orange in points and rebounds with 16 and seven, respectively. He hadn’t scored that many since the start of ACC play at Notre Dame on January 5.
“It feels good knowing that I was able to help my team today,” Brissett said. “It feels good to play like myself again.”
Jim Boeheim and company only have three days of rest before their first of two matchups against Boston College in Chestnut Hill on Wednesday, January 30.
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