Tech falls just short against Syracuse

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Justin Bibbs
Justin Bibbs

Virginia Tech had a massive second half rally and nearly upset Syracuse, but ultimately fell 68-66 in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.  The Hokies dropped to 8-6 overall and 0-1 in the ACC, while the Orange improved to 10-4 and 1-0 in conference play.

This was a tale of two halves.  The Hokies were thoroughly outclassed in the first half, and fell behind by 22 points before going to the intermission trailing 42-23.  Playing without r-junior center Joey van Zegeren (suspension) and freshman wing Jalen Hudson (back injury), Tech looked lost for the first 20 minutes, they weren’t active defensively, and they were completely outrebounded.

The second half was a different story.  Syracuse managed just seven points in the first 12+ minutes of the second half.  The Hokies were very active defensively, and they were much more physical inside with All-ACC big man Rakeem Christmas.  They were also much better at penetrating against the vaunted Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone, and they were gradually able to chip away at the lead.

14:28 mark: 12 point lead
13:05 mark: 9 point lead
11:27 mark: 7 point lead
9:26 mark: 6 point lead
7:17 mark: 4 point lead
6:35 mark: 2 point lead

After two free throws by Devin Wilson that cut the Syracuse lead to 51-49, Justin Bibbs came up with a steal and the Hokies got a fast break.  However, Wilson missed a contested layup that would have tied the game, and Shane Henry missed the putback.  After that, the Orange were able to extend their lead back out to 11 points – 62-51 – at the 2:21 mark.

That didn’t mean the Hokies were done.  Buzz Williams managed the game brilliantly with his use of timeouts and fouls down the stretch, and his players hit a number of key shots to keep Tech in the game.  They kept plugging away, and eventually an Ahmed Hill three-point attempt with just over four seconds left cut the Syracuse lead to 68-66.  Tech immediately fouled Ron Patterson, who missed both free throws with 4.3 seconds left.

Justin Bibbs grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball up the court and drew help defense.  He pitched the ball into the left corner to r-freshman guard Malik Mueller.  Mueller got a decent look, but Syracuse is a very lengthy team, and his three-point attempt fell just short as time expired, though it was on line.

Bibbs led the Hokies with 22 points, which tied a career high.  He also grabbed 11 rebounds, which was a career high.  It was his first career double-double.  Devin Wilson pitched in with 13 points, eight assists and just one turnover.

To show what a complete turnaround the second half was, consider the fact that at one point Syracuse held a 21-8 rebounding edge in the first half, including eight offensive rebounds.  For the rest of the game the Hokies outrebounded the much bigger Orange 26-21, and they also held them to just 31.8% from the field in the second half (39% for the game).  Syracuse shot 16 three-pointers in the first half, but attempted only five in the second half as Tech did a much better job of accounting for shooters.  At one several points in the second half, Tech had nobody taller than 6-5 on the court because of their lack of post players.

There’s no such thing as a moral victory in sports, but hopefully their performance in the second half against quality competition shows Tech’s young players exactly what it takes to be successful at this level.

The Hokies return to action on Tuesday, January 6 at 7pm when they travel to Florida State for the first of three consecutive ACC road games.  The game will be televised by RSN.  Check your local listings.

Box Score

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11 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Chris,
    I cant speak for other users, but I would like to see more of what Buzz has to say at the end of each game. Any chance to get more of it on the videos you put together? Thanks!

  2. I like the new coach and the hustle displayed by the team.
    Buzz is getting a lot out of a team that is not loaded with talent and experience.
    It took years to get to this point so don’t expect instant success.
    Go Hokies!

  3. Congratulations to the MBB team and CBW for a great effort! Justin Bibbs himself said that if they had played that hard in the first half they could have won! Congrats to these young guys for making this effort, given that they are having to grow up fast!

    And for the reporters, please don’t ask silly questions like, How much heart does this team have? Didn’t you just watch the game??!?

  4. The team showed a lot of fight and did not quit. I’m still not sold on coach Buzz…..but coming around. Go Hokies!

    1. Wow – what does it take? He has washed the slate clean of underachieving players and is building a TEAM for the future. The effort today by bunch of undersized players in the second half was extraordinary.

      You don’t rebuild, rebuild, rebuild Rome in a day or a year. Buzz is a coach, plain and simple.

        1. Wow, one loss to a non-conference opponent and a coach isn’t able to gain your support despite all of the MANY great things he has done for not only the VT Men’s Basketball program but the University/community as a whole? Oh, and only after a year’s time? I have a feeling you’ll never be satisfied with any coach, so good luck with that!

          By the way, that Radford UNIVERSITY team was laden with upper-classmen, returning like 90-some percent of their scoring from last season. I bet that they would be able to give half of the ACC teams fits this year.

          Finally, Buzz was completely upfront with everyone as soon as he arrived in Blacksburg: his primary goal this year is not wins and losses. It’s 100% about laying the foundation for a better future for the program. If he has to make a decision that may hurt the team’s W-L record this year, but will end up serving the program long-term, he will do that (case in point: Joey van Zegeren’s suspension).

          1. He’s building a good foundation but college sports is a results driven business. At some point in time VT needs to start winning games. Losses to ASU and Radford certainly hurt perception. Narrow losses to PSU and Cuse have shown improvement but there hasn’t been any consistency thus far, which was certainly to be expected.

            I’m a fan of Buzz and what it appears he is trying to build but I don’t think those that are skeptical are way out of line considering how the team has performed thus far. It may have been done in a different way but James Johnson could have easily had this VT team with the same record at this point considering the strength of schedule.

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