There’s an old saying: you can’t get hot if you don’t know the cold. On Saturday in Blacksburg, Syracuse finally snapped out of its unconscious midseason run, and the four-game ACC win streak was snapped at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Syracuse offense was bound to slow down after losing starting center Jesse Edwards for the season with a wrist injury. The issues showed up down the stretch. SU was one of its last 12 from three, and outscored 17-5 in the final seven minutes of the contest after the game was tied at 54 apiece. After four games averaging over 50% shooting from the field, the Orange put up less than 60 points for just the fifth time this season. Joe Girard was a bright spot for SU, scoring 16 points and hitting four of seven three pointers. JG3 also crossed the 1,000 point bench mark in the first half.
Despite the loss of SU’s starting center, there wasn’t much of a problem down low. Frank Anselem filled in admirably, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds and chipping in six points. He certainly wasn’t as large of an offensive presence as Edwards – there is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to the screen and roll). If the Nigerian can develop his pick and roll skills with Girard and Buddy Boeheim (21 points, 8-19 FG), Syracuse should be able to do more in final five minutes. All in all, Anselem did exactly what Jim Boeheim needed him to do. Play without fouling and get on the glass.
However, the Orange defense as a whole was a turnstile, especially in the first half. VT had no problem getting the ball into the free throw line. Hokies forward Justyn Mutts capitalized, with the program’s second ever triple double (12 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists). The grad transfer from Delaware had free reign in the key to pop 12-foot jumpers, dump bounce passes to the baseline or kick out to open shooters. Virginia Tech came into the contest as one of the best three point shooting teams in the nation (42.1%), and while that number didn’t hold true today (8-27), there were plenty of missed open looks.
This loss ultimately kills any pipe dream Syracuse had of making the tournament. Honestly, most dreams were denied on Thursday, but this puts the final nail in the coffin. It’s time to give Benny Williams more minutes, and lock into SU Lacrosse!