Syracuse men’s basketball back to winning ways, defeats Virginia Tech 82-72
Syracuse men’s basketball (11-6, 4-2 ACC) put together one of its best games of the season season in a 82-72 win over Virginia Tech (11-6, 1-5 ACC) on Wednesday night in the JMA Wireless Dome.
The Orange entered the game coming off of a 73-66 loss to No. 11 Virginia last Saturday. One of the main issues for Syracuse against UVA was a lack of offensive production. Guards Judah Mintz and Joe Girard III accounted for more than half of SU’s total points.
In Wednesday’s matchup with Virginia Tech, however, the story couldn’t have been more different. Nine Syracuse players touched the court in the first half alone, while five players finished the game with double-digit points.
Senior Joe Girard III was back at it, putting up 24 points on 50% shooting from the field. Girard’s scoring ability was on full display as the sharpshooter drilled three triples and converted on a handful of fadeaway jumpers. The performance marked the sixth game this year in which the New Yorker has scored 20 or more points.
LISTEN: Joe Girard put the icing on the cake with a late-game jumper over Virginia Tech guard Sean Pedulla. The senior finished with 24 points, the third time that he's reached that mark in his last four games. @JohnDales_ had the call.— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) January 12, 2023
🎙️@waer883, https://t.co/BG0Q3sGq3P pic.twitter.com/NAhoWZ808A
Despite the strong outing from Girard, it was the bench scoring that helped to push the Syracuse lead up to 22 points. Freshmen Maliq Brown and Justin Taylor each logged over 25 minutes for Jim Boeheim’s team. Both Virginia natives, Taylor racked up 10 points while Brown finished with 11 points and 12 boards, earning him his first career double-double.
“He’s playing starters’ minutes. He stays around the basket. He does what our team needs,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said about Brown.
LISTEN: With the Orange in control down the stretch, Maliq Brown poked the ball out of the hands of Hokie guard Sean Pedulla. @JohnDales_ had the call.— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) January 12, 2023
🎙️@waer883, https://t.co/BG0Q3sGXTn pic.twitter.com/iknSVht1Rw
While S.U. found success on the offensive end of the court, the struggles continued on the defensive side of the ball, specifically when it came to defending the paint. Forty-six of Virginia Tech’s 72 points came from inside the lane. Both Hokies’ starting forwards torched the Syracuse zone. Justyn Mutts, who put up a triple-double against the Orange last season, finished with 21 points and 9 assists. Grant Basile led all scorers with 26 points, shooting an impressive 70% from the floor.
One of the big issues facing Syracuse going forward is finding an effective substitute for center Jesse Edwards when the Dutchman leaves the floor. In addition to leading Syracuse in rebounding, the senior plays in the middle of Jim Boeheim’s iconic 2-3 zone defense. Edwards leads the ACC in blocks per game, but has struggled with foul trouble, which has kept him out of games for large chunks of time.
Apart from Edwards the Orange are noticeably thin at the center position. Mounir Hima is often the second-choice big man but the 6-foot-11 center has struggled to find playing time all season. The sophomore played 5 minutes and picked up 3 personal fouls against Virginia Tech.
“I think we were a little better defensively on the perimeter. We thought we could do better on the inside." Boeheim said. "Our offense won us the game - our defense was helpful until it wasn’t,”
Coming up next for Syracuse is a rematch with Notre Dame on Saturday, January 14 at 7:00 p.m. from the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. Earlier this season the ‘Cuse squeaked out a 62-61 win over the Irish in South Bend. After starting off 7-2, Notre Dame has gone 2-7 over its last 9 games.