Virginia Tech got off to a disappointing start in ACC play, losing to Syracuse 68-56 in the Carrier Dome on Sunday night. The Hokies dropped to 11-3 overall and 0-1 in the ACC with the loss, while the Orange improved to 12-2 and 1-0.
In general, Tech’s defense was good enough to win, but the Hokies were let down by their offensive performance, which has now been subpar for the last three games. Ball movement wasn’t good, and their shooting was poor in every phase of the game.
FG: 18-of-52 (34.6%)
3Pt: 10-of-30 (33.3%)
FT: 10-of-18 (55.6%)
Tech’s inability to get the ball inside against the Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone was ultimately Virginia Tech’s undoing. They made just eight two-point baskets in the game, and they did not make their fourth two-pointer until there were just 6:33 remaining in the game. Their third two-pointer came on a Kerry Blackshear layup off an offensive rebound with 11:22 left in the first half, which means the Hokies went well over 20 minutes of game time without a two-point basket.
Not only did the Hokies struggle to score around the basket, but they struggled to get the ball into the paint area in general, which limited their kickouts for open three-pointers. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Syracuse defense.
Freshman wing Nickeil Alexander-Walker paced Tech with 19 points. He was 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from three-point range. However, he didn’t get much help, as only two other Hokies made it to double figures: Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs finished with 10 points each.
Kerry Blackshear struggled with foul trouble yet again. He played just 13 minutes, and though he didn’t end up fouling out, he finished with just four points and four rebounds. Blackshear fouled out in Tech’s previous losses to Saint Louis and Kentucky, and he also fouled out of their overtime win at Ole Miss. When he’s not in the game, the Hokies are playing either 6-6 Chris Clarke or 6-5 PJ Horne at center, and neither scenario is ideal against teams with the size of Syracuse and Kentucky.
Virginia Tech trailed 32-19 at halftime after their worst 20-minute offensive performance of the season. However, they showed some life early in the second half. After Syracuse scored early to go up 34-19, the Hokies ran off a 12-0 run behind four three-pointers, two by Justin Bibbs and one each by Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. That cut the Syracuse lead to 34-31 with 14:35 remaining, and at that point the game resembled the Ole Miss performance that saw the Hokies rally from a 16-point second half deficit to win.
But it wasn’t to be. Syracuse responded to Virginia Tech’s 12-0 run with an 11-0 run of their own, making the score 45-31 with 11:31 remaining. The Hokies were unable to cut the lead to single digits for the rest of the game, and they’ll return to Blacksburg with a disappointing result.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday night when they host No. 9 Virginia in Cassell Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 9pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network. Check your local listings.