September 16

No. 10 Virginia Tech steamrolls Syracuse, 78-56, in SU’s worst loss since 2016

first_imgBLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Tech fanbase, clad in Hokies maroon and burnt orange, packed into the bleachers of a sold-out Cassell Coliseum, where they’re now 11-0 this season. They rallied around the Hokies with every basket. Every forced turnover. Every forced shot clock violation. They looked for any reason to cheer, growing louder as the game wore on, and the Hokies lead extended further and further out of Syracuse’s reach.A collective gasp followed every near-takeaway. The Hokies’ high-pressure man-to-man defense forced four shot-clock violations. Guard Justin Robinson freed himself up to go 9-for-13 from deep — shattering a program record for single-game made 3-pointers. They carved into the 2-3 zone with a mix of lights-out 3-point shooting, inside-out ball movement and a bevy of cuts to the rim.The Orange entered Saturday night winners of three-straight, but they played maybe their worst basketball against one of the conference’s best teams. The 10th-ranked Hokies (16-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast) handled Syracuse (14-6, 5-2), 78-56, by moving the ball with ease and creating chaos on the SU perimeter. It’s the Orange’s worst defeat since they lost to St. John’s at the Carrier Dome in 2016.“Their defense was really, really good,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We did a very poor job of finding Robinson. Our offensive struggles bled over into our defense, and we don’t do a very good job of locating him. They passed it out more than most teams, and we didn’t react to it.”The loss slows a surging SU team that came to Blacksburg in pursuit of a second top-10 road win in a 12-day span. Syracuse had altered the trajectory of its season. The Orange hobbled to four nonconference losses, then lost by 14 at home to one of the ACC’s weakest teams in Georgia Tech. Road games at Duke and Virginia Tech loomed. Yet SU put up 95 points in an overtime victory over the then-No. 1 Blue Devils on national TV, and all of a sudden every game on the schedule became winnable.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThen came Virginia Tech. On numerous possessions, the Hokies left Syracuse with no room. They doubled pick-and-rolls. They were all over SU junior shooting guard Tyus Battle when he touched the ball, largely cutting off any room for him to run. He finished with just 10 points on 10 shot attempts. With the perimeter in gridlock, Syracuse didn’t find much offensive rhythm.Ideally, when a team doubles the ball handler in high-screen situations, the big bumps toward the basket. A dump-off pass is the desired outcome, Boeheim said, but that puts the onus on senior center Paschal Chukwu, who finished with two points and didn’t alter shots defensively.“Some nights, he has nothing,” Boeheim said. “Tonight, he had nothing.”The 43-24 halftime deficit seemed to jolt the Orange. For as much as Virginia Tech pressured the ball on the perimeter, gaps opened inside. The backdoor was there. The high post, mainly sophomore forward Oshae Brissett’s territory, had points written all over it. He finished with a team-high 16 points. The Orange exploded out of the half to an 11-0 run. The arena went quiet, and Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams called a timeout.The Hokies shot back with a 14-1 run: In time, a Virginia Tech 3-pointer pushed the SU deficit to 15. Assistant coach Allen Griffin leaned back in his chair. After Brissett missed a layup near the left block, the Hokies marched back and connected on an alley-oop to push the lead to 18. Rapid ball movement inside and out left an open Ty Outlaw on the perimeter. His shot swished. SU senior point guard Frank Howard stood still. The arena got loud, and the Hokies never looked back, pushing the lead to as much as 25.When Robinson drilled 3 after 3, the Orange could not respond. When the Hokies stripped the ball loose and pushed the ball up court for a transition score, they could not respond then either.“We knew that we had to get the ball to the high post and let the high-post guy operate,” said Robinson, who also broke the program’s career assists record. “We made great decisions in the high post, and everything just opened up. In a zone like that, they converge in the middle. So, who are you going to guard on the outside?”The options VT had on the perimeter — always at least three shooters on the floor at once — haunted SU. Boeheim said he didn’t elect to counter their 3-point approach by inserting freshman sharpshooter Buddy Boeheim because VT’s defense was perimeter oriented. Boeheim also said it didn’t help that the Orange had only one day to prepare for the Hokies, while the Hokies had four days. Their preparation time allowed them to develop a plan against the SU 2-3 zone, he said. Generally, Boeheim wants at least two days to prepare for an opponent.Over the past week, the Orange handled Pittsburgh and Miami with ease. With a second top-10 road win, Syracuse had a chance to propel itself near the top of arguably college basketball’s top conference. But the Orange ran into a wall of a Hokies defense that combined with a relentless offensive attack to keep SU at bay.“They made it tough,” said Battle, who added two rebounds and a pair of assists. “They were swarming the pick-and-rolls, clogging passing and driving lanes.”At the under-eight timeout, Syracuse trailed by 15. At the under-four timeout, the VT lead had swelled to 25. “Let’s go Hokies” boomed through the arena as dozens of Syracuse fans filed for the exits. When the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, the Orange filed into the locker room, their minds trying to make sense of the program’s worst loss in two-plus years. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on January 26, 2019 at 10:23 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21last_img


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