Virginia Tech put on a passing and dunking display in an 83-73 victory over the Syracuse Orange in Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night. The Hokies improved to 13-3 overall and 2-2 in the ACC with the win, while Syracuse dropped to 10-7 and 2-2.
Tech methodically took apart the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone from the opening tip. They used great ball movement, great floor spacing and terrific passing to do so. The Hokies dished out 20 assists on 28 made field goals, and they lit up the Orange for 83 points. Only two teams (St. John’s and Boston College) have scored more points against Syracuse this year.
“I thought Virginia Tech moved the ball very well, and in the second half got some very good looks,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim noted. “I thought our interior defense was not good either half, and I thought that was the big key.”
Another key for the Hokies was their lack of turnovers. After committing 36 turnovers combined in their previous two losses to NC State and Florida State, they had just six on Tuesday night, including only one in the first 29 minutes of the game.
“We’ve just been emphasizing [turnovers] throughout practice all week,” Chris Clarke said following the game. “We definitely knew it was a problem.”
Clarke was one of five Hokies to finish with double figures. He had an impressive all-around game yet again, scoring 17 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists. Zach LeDay led the team with 22 points, and he also pulled down six rebounds.
Justin Bibbs started the game 1-of-8 from the field, but rallied late to score 18 points and grab seven rebounds. He was 5-of-13 from the field and 2-of-6 from three-point range.
Bibbs has now played some of the best games of his career against Syracuse. Here are his numbers dating back to his freshman season…
Freshman #1: 22 points, 11 rebounds
Freshman #2: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Sophomore: 16 points, 11 rebounds
Junior: 16 points, 7 rebounds
He’s never been known as a great rebounder during his Tech career, but he goes to work on the glass against the Orange, and he also puts the ball in the basket.
Ahmed Hill added 13 points for Tech, while Seth Allen finished with 11 off the bench. Allen missed the Florida State game while going through concussion protocol, but he returned to play one of his best games of the season. He was under control, made four of his seven shots, dished out five assists, and had just one turnover. The Hokies needed that performance from him, as starting point guard Justin Robinson scored zero points in 14 minutes thanks to foul trouble.
Another area in which the Hokies improved from the last two games was defense. After surrendering 104 points at NC State and 93 at Florida State, Tech held Syracuse to only 73.
“I thought defensively we were much, much better,” Buzz Williams said. “We didn’t give up near as many points in transition, didn’t get into rotation, maybe the least amount we’ve been in rotation in a BCS game this year. Much, much better.”
Syracuse shot just 43.1% from the field and 29.4% from three-point range. Coming into the game, they were shooting 39.9% from the outside. The Hokies also accomplished their goal of making more free throws (19) than the other team attempts (16).
Tech returns to action this Saturday when #20 Notre Dame visits Cassell Coliseum. The Irish are 14-2 on the season and a perfect 3-0 in ACC play. Tipoff is scheduled for 2pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network.
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
The Hokies used the same starting lineup tonight as in the last three games. Zach LeDay got his third consecutive start.
Seth Allen was the Hokies’ first substitute. He had missed the previous game due to an injury suffered at NC State last Wednesday. He scored 11 points. It is his ninth game in double figures this season.
Zach LeDay scored 22 points. He has scored in double-figures in 15 of the team’s 16 games and in the last 11 straight. He has four games of at least 20 points. The 22 points ties his career-high in ACC games.
Chris Clarke scored 17 points. That is his 10th double-figure game of the season and his eighth consecutive game in double-figures. Clarke also dished out six assists, a new high for him in an ACC game.
Justin Bibbs scored 18 points. It is his seventh double-figure scoring game of the season and ties his season-high in points. He had 18 points in the win over No. 5/5 Duke on Dec. 31. He was 6-of-8 from the free throw line, both new highs for him in an ACC game.
Ahmed Hill scored 13 points. It is his 13th game in double-figures this season and his eighth consecutive game in double-figures.
The Hokies placed five players in double figures.
The Hokies committed a season-low six turnovers. The previous low was seven against Texas A&M. This is the fewest turnovers in an ACC game for the Hokies since committing six turnovers against Wake Forest on Jan. 13, 2016.
The Hokies dished out 20 assists, on 28 made baskets. This is the ninth time this season that the Hokies have had at least 18 assists in a game. It is the most assists for the Hokies in an ACC game since the Hokies had 23 assists against Wake Forest on Jan. 15, 2011. The 23 assists is a high in an ACC game for the Hokies.
The victory snapped an eight-game losing skid to the Orange. This marked Tech’s first win over Syracuse since Jan. 30, 1978 in Cassell Coliseum.