Following a disappointing defeat in Charlottesville, Syracuse (11-6, 4-2 ACC) returned to the JMA Wireless Dome in need of a feel-good win. The Orange got just that and then some in a sound 82-72 victory over Virginia Tech (11-6, 1-5 ACC). Syracuse combined efficient shooting, strong defense, and got hefty contributions from its freshmen to dispatch a Hokies squad that entered ranked No. 41 in KenPom.
Despite a comfortable final margin, SU didn’t start hot under its roof. The Hokies exploited the middle of Syracuse’s zone to take an early 12-7 lead, courtesy of several buckets from senior forward Justyn Mutts. Faced with an early hole, head coach Jim Boeheim turned to his bench for a spark. Down five, freshman forward Justin Taylor entered as a substitute to join fellow first-year wing Maliq Brown on the court. The two clicked on the court and combined for 63 minutes on the evening. Taylor’s 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting and Brown’s double-double (11 points, team-leading 12 rebounds) helped the ‘Cuse pull ahead in the first half and head into the halftime break up 43-37.
Faced with a deficit and without senior sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor (elbow), the Hokies began laboring for offense against a revitalized Syracuse defense. VT turned the ball over 11 times and shot just 3-of-19 from three. Guards Rodney Rice (1-of-9 FG, 0-5 3PT) and Sean Pedulla (3-of-15 FGs, 2-for-11 3PT) both struggled mightily in the backcourt. Faced with chances at the glass, ‘Cuse’s defense won the rebound battle for just the second time in its last six games.
As Syracuse’s defense heated up, so too did its offense. Five ‘Cuse players scored in double digits, including senior Joe Girard (10-of-20 FGs, team-leading 24 points) and center Jesse Edwards (13 points, 10 rebounds). The Orange knocked down eight three-pointers to tie a season-high. On the other end, Tech forward Grant Basile led the way for the Hokies with 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting.
Syracuse is back in action inside the JMA Wireless Dome on January 14th. Notre Dame comes to Syracuse to finish up the regular season. SU beat ND 62-61 back on December 3rd. Tipoff on Saturday is at 7 P.M.