Virginia Tech was defeated at home by Syracuse 71-69 on Saturday afternoon. The loss dropped the Hokies to 13-5 overall and 4-3 in the ACC, while the Orange improved to 11-7 overall and 4-3.
Tech overcame a 16-point deficit to have a chance to win the game on their final possession. Trailing 70-69 after inbounding from in front of their own bench with 7.4 seconds remaining, the ball came to Landers Nolley at the top of the key, who put up a deep, ill-advised 3-pointer with plenty of time remaining. Syracuse rebounded the miss, made a free throw, and the game ended.
The final attempt by Nolley wasn’t exactly what the Hokies were looking for on their final possession.
“That wasn’t what we drew up, but he [Landers Nolley II] was going to be a part of it,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said of that last shot. “We made the wrong play. That is on Mike Young, not on my team. We’ll handle that better and the next time, or 10 times, he will be a part of that action that didn’t work out for us. Again, I take all the responsibility for that.”
“It was drawn up for me to find somebody or hit the shot,” Nolley said. “Clearly, I didn’t do either. Next time it will be a better situation and it won’t be that close.”
The disappointing final possession marred what was a great comeback for Virginia Tech. They were down by as many as 16 points, trailing 36-20 with 4:05 remaining in the first half before cutting the lead to 36-28 at halftime. They also trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half when the Orange jumped out to a 47-34 lead with 15:57 left in the game.
Most of the damage done against the Hokies came at the hands of Buddy Boeheim, who scored an incredible 18 consecutive points for Syracuse. Boeheim began his run with a three-pointer that made the score 14-13 Virginia Tech with 13 minutes remaining in the half. He ended the run at the 7:47 mark of the first half with another three-pointer that made the score 28-19 Syracuse.
Boeheim cooled off in the second half, but still made some clutch shots to finish with 26 points.
“He’s been making some hard ones,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We like Elijah [Hughes] to do that, but right now Buddy [Boeheim] is the one and he’s even better probably. The one that he made in the second half was really hard, the guy was right on him, but he’s been playing tremendous basketball for us.”
Tech was led by true freshman Nahiem Alleyne, who finished with 17 points. Alleyne was 6-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from three-point range. Jalen Cone, making his first career start, had 14 points, while Landers Nolley had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds. However, Nolley was only 3-of-13 from three-point range, and he had four of Virginia Tech’s seven turnovers.
Despite the Boeheim show, the Hokies rallied in the latter stages of the game and nearly stole the victory. After Syracuse took a 47-34 second half lead, Tech went on a 17-6 run to cut the lead to 53-51 with 10:37 left in the game. However, try as they might, the Hokies couldn’t manage to tie the game or retake the lead. The Orange went on their own mini-run to take a 66-58 lead with just 4:11 to play.
The Hokies had one last run left in them, though. With 40 seconds remaining, Wabissa Bede hit a layup in the lane to cut the lead to 70-69, and he was fouled on the play. With a chance to tie the game, Bede – only a 53.1% free throw shooter this year – went to the line…and missed. However, Syracuse had a terrible possession, with Elijah Hughes never passing the ball and putting up a bad three-pointer while closely guarded. Tech got the ball back, called a timeout in front of their own bench to set up the last possession, which did not go as planned.
“I thought our team all-in-all scored enough to win,” Young said. “We didn’t defend well enough to win. At the end of the day, Syracuse played a little better than my team did today and that’s the game. That’s college basketball.”
Virginia Tech returns to action on Wednesday night when they host North Carolina. Tipoff is scheduled for 8pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network.