What a difference three days can make. After exploding for 87 points against Notre Dame on Saturday, Syracuse scored 63 points in its second straight loss on Tuesday against Virginia Tech. All the attention ahead of the game was on the defense, and rightfully so. That script flipped in a game where the Orange could never find a consistent offensive rhythm.
The bottom line is that this Syracuse team remains a work in progress. The Orange are 8-7 overall, including 0-3 in home ACC games this year. That’s not going to cut it. SU only came away with six assists against VT, shocking considering they lead the country in assists per field goals made. After the game coach Jim Boeheim stressed how difficult it was for the Orange to move the ball against the Hokies pressure defense.
While Elijah Hughes led the Orange with 20 points, it felt like an off night for him. Hughes shot 6-for-16 from the field. Outside of him, Joe Girard had 12 points and Buddy Boeheim had 10. Far from the production SU got out of its big three against the Fighting Irish.
The game changed when Boeheim broke the lineup just over ten minutes into the first half. That’s when freshman Quincy Guerrier was inserted for the first time. After waiting a long time to initially make the change, Boeheim rode the small lineup of Girard, Boeheim, Hughes, Guerrier and Maurek Dolezaj for most of the game. Until Dolezaj fouled out late in the contest, that was the lineup Boeheim seemed to prefer in crunch time.
Frankly, it worked well. Especially on defense. The only problem is that Virginia Tech doesn’t have an inside presence like John Mooney, who put up 28 on the Orange last weekend. Boeheim has made it clear he doesn’t think Sidibe is getting the job done. The center position doesn’t look great at the moment and it doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
The only silver lining from this game is that SU actually looked decent on defense. They held the Hokies to 27.8% from deep, 10 percentage points lower than their season average. There’s no denying that Syracuse left it all out on the court on Tuesday. Right now, it’s just not good enough.
Losing the first two games after the ACC restart puts Syracuse in a really tough predicament: its in desperate need of a win against No. 18 Virginia on Saturday. The Cavs just lost to Boston College, which is probably a bad thing for SU. Now the defending national champions will be on high alert when they return to Charlottesville.
Besides, if you can’t beat Virginia Tech at home, who are you going to beat in the ACC?
On a different note, local legend Latavius Murray made it back to the Dome for the game.
While I’m sure the Saints running back would love to be preparing for a game against the Packers this week, it was nice to have him back. Oh, and that Odell Beckham Jr. guy was in the house. Too bad they couldn’t see a better game.