Syracuse Gets Revenge in Blacksburg with Win Over Virginia Tech
Something has clicked for Jim Boeheim’s team.
After losing to Virginia Tech at home less than 2 weeks ago, the Orange have rallied off 3 straight victories, including two on the road. One against the defending champion Virginia Cavaliers, and now this hard-fought game at Virginia Tech. This has given Syracuse’s tournament hopes newfound life, and momentum heading into a critical 3-game stretch of ACC play.
The Orange this year have seemingly lived and died by the three-point shooting of Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim, and Joe Girard. However, this game Saturday afternoon was much different, as Syracuse dominated the paint, outscoring the Hokies 34-12 in that area, while also winning the rebounding battle. However, with all the physicality, no Syracuse player shot free throws until about 3/4ths of the way through the first half.
The real story of this game was Buddy Boeheim, who had a career outing. He had 26 points, including a stretch where he scored 18 consecutive points for the Orange in the first half. The Orange at one point had a 16-point lead, but the Hokies went on a run of their own to cut the lead to 8 at the break.
Virginia Tech began clawing their way back, cutting the Syracuse lead to 1 before Jim Boeheim called a timeout with 1:52 left.
After a few more back and forth possessions which included a tough Elijah Hughes lay-in, the Orange lead 70-67. It was then that Virginia Tech guard Wabissa Bede hit an and-one layup and was given a chance to tie the game with a free throw. He missed.
The Hokies had a chance at the end of the game, but had an absolutely awful possession out of a timeout, as Landers Nolley II chucked up a 25 footer with time left. The broadcast team at ESPN was scratching their heads as well, and one can assume it was not what Head Coach Mike Young wanted for a final shot.
Marek Dolezaj put the game on ice with a free throw, and the Orange hung on for a gritty 71-69 win.
Another bright spot off the bench was Quincy Gurrier, who added 9 rebounds in 24 minutes, and played admirably for stretches when Jim Boeheim benched fellow big man Bourama Sidibe. Coach Boeheim has been lacking bench production, and having Howard Washington and Quincy become more reliable contributors has been a crucial addition to this team.
Another crucial addition has been the attendance of former Syracuse runner Justyn Knight. Knight won the DI Men’s Cross-Country National Championship in 2017, and Justyn has been very vocal about his contributions to the teams. The Orange are 3-0 in games he attends, and it has become a trend that members of the basketball team have even noticed, including Shaun Belbey.
Syracuse’s win further complicates the ACC, a conference which might be synonymous with the rest of college basketball. In an odd year which has seen 14 Top-5 Teams lose already, no team or conference appears to be dominant. The ACC standings are a mess, with 3rd place Duke already at 2 losses, followed by a slew of teams separated by the thinnest of margins.
Syracuse hopes to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, and their next shot is Wednesday the 22nd in South Bend, when the Orange hope to avenge their previous loss to Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.