On Tuesday night, the Virginia Tech Hokies came to the Carrier Dome for what proved to be a very exciting game. The Orange were coming in off a two game winning streak aiming to continue their recent success while Virginia Tech was hoping to turn things around, being losers of four straight.
Syracuse started off the game very poorly, quickly falling behind 11-4. The Orange gradually chipped away at the deficit the entire half, but were never able to take the lead. Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije, who have been the most consistent scorers on the team, were held in check in the opening half. The team as a whole shot poorly in the first, going only 8-27 (29.6%) from the field. The Hokies went into halftime leading 30-24.
The second half proved to be much more exciting than the first. Throughout the half, Syracuse kept it a close game but were unable to ever take the lead. With two minutes remaining in regulation, the Orange trailed by 7. In those final two minutes, the team powered back. They went on an 8-1 run, finished off by a Michael Gbinije 3 to tie the game at 56 with 0:30 left. Malachi Richardson was able to get a shot off at the buzzer but missed, sending the game into overtime.
OT is where the tides really turned in the favor of Syracuse. The Orange took their first lead of the game on a 3 pointer from Trevor Cooney just seconds into overtime. From that point on there was no looking back. Syracuse played strong defense and shot the ball well in the overtime period on their way to a 68-60 victory.
The victory extended Syracuse’s winning streak to three game and improved their record to 16-8 (6-5 ACC). Tyler Roberson continued his outstanding play, scoring 12 points and grabbing a team-leading 15 rebounds. Michael Gbinije recovered nicely from his first half woes to score 17 points and dish out 3 assists. Freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon both put up 13 points and strong defensive efforts.
This game was also a firsthand showing of the team’s issues. All season long, Syracuse has struggled from the free throw line and it continued on Tuesday. Once again, the Orange were dreadful from the line, going 20-32 (62.5%). DaJuan Coleman also continued his troubles. In the 16 minutes that he played, Coleman looked slow. He wasn’t fighting down low and got beat, occasionally by smaller players, for rebounds. This was a major issue, as Virginia Tech scored half of their 60 points in the paint.
Syracuse has been living by the 3 all season long and this game showed that if they want to make the tournament and contend in the ACC, they can’t rely solely on the 3 point shot. Shooting 8-24 (33%) from behind the arc will not cut it against tougher opponents, especially with the lack of success down low. This game also had serious tournament implications for the Orange. Before Tuesday, Syracuse was considered one of the “First 4 Out” for the NCAA tournament. With a tough stretch of games to finish off the season, this victory was huge for the Orange’s chances to make the tournament.
Syracuse will get nine days rest before Florida State comes to town on Thursday, February 11th.
Chris Broderick ’18