After a dismal start to the season, things started to turn around for the Orange with wins over ACC opponents Miami and Pittsburgh. Tuesday brought a fresh chance to snag the first notable road win and the Orange showed life but fell short in Blacksburg, losing 83-73. Syracuse fought and clawed to climb back from an early double digit deficit but foul trouble landed the two Tylers on the bench.
Syracuse was far from perfect on both ends of the floor in the first half, and John Gillon reverted to non-conference Gillon. The foul trouble and lack of strong point guard play was nearly canceled out by Andrew White III’s 13 points before the break. The Orange were lucky to enter the locker room trailing 37-31.
Half time, Syracuse fans hoped, would give Boeheim time to make adjustments and for the struggling players to settle down. Well, it didn’t work out that way. The Hokies came out flying, opening up a 12 point lead within the first four minutes of the second half. Syracuse was never able to recover and fell 83-73, dropping to 10-7 on the season and 2-2 in the ACC.
The Orange showed life and had several chances to really cut into the deficit in the second half. A Tyus Battle three pointer cut the deficit to three with more than ten minutes to go but then the offense returned to hibernation and the Orange saw their chance to come back slowly slip away. It has to be said that Tyler Lydon landed awkwardly on his ankle on a shot in the first half and he was not himself for the remainder of the game.
The reasons that Syracuse lost on Tuesday were the same as the other big loses this season. The point guards didn’t show up and the defense did not bring the energy that it showed in the two game home stand and Syracuse got dominated for large stretches of the game. It doesn’t get any easier for the Orange down the stretch. After a home rematch with Boston College, the Orange will have three out of four games against top 20 opposition on the road, with trips to UNC, Notre Dame and Florida State.
Syracuse likely needs to go either 10-8 or 11-7 in the conference to have any hope at making the big dance. Tuesday was a chance to get one of those tossup games that they will need to bolster their record. They failed to get it because of poor guard play and bad defense when it mattered most.