Date: Saturday, January 22
TV: RSN (Affiliate List)
Following the postponement of Wednesday’s game against Boston College, No. 16 Virginia Tech (11-2, 5-2) heads north to take on Syracuse (8-4, 2-3) and Jim Boeheim’s tough zone defense on Saturday afternoon.
The Hokies are looking to finish off their third four-game winning streak of the season with a victory over the Orange. The last time Tech was on the hardwood, they had a tough time against Wake Forest, who is still winless in the ACC. It will take a much better performance against Syracuse to earn a sixth conference win.
Tech weathered plenty of mistakes against the Demon Deacons to pull out a four-point win, including 15 turnovers. The victory also came with almost no contributions from the Hokies’ top-two scorers. Keve Aluma had just five points while sharpshooter Jalen Cone was held scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting.
It was up to Tyrece Radford to help lead the team for the second straight outing. Radford led the Hokies in scoring with 20 points, including six clutch free throws in the final minute to seal the game. Paired with an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double against Duke earlier in the week, that was good enough to earn ACC Co-Player of the Week honors.
Radford looks to play a large role once again for the Hokies against Syracuse. This will be a tough test for Tech considering the Jim Boeheim’s famous 2-3 zone. Playing against zones has led to some struggles for the Hokies’ offense against teams like VMI and Penn State. Tech dealt with some long scoring droughts in those games and will have to avoid them in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
The only good news about the Orange zone is that it leaves them vulnerable to giving up offensive rebounds. Syracuse is one of the worst teams in the nation in allowing offensive rebounds, with a rate of 31.7%, which ranks No. 292 in the country. Aluma and Justyn Mutts will look to capitalize down low for the Hokies.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Orange this year. Early in conference play, Syracuse has blown out Boston College and Miami, but has also lost twice to Pittsburgh over the last two weeks.
While the Orange are known for their defense, it’s been the offensive attack that has been more impressive this season. Syracuse is 32nd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and has three players averaging 15 or more points.
Sophomore Quincy Guerrier has quickly stepped into the role of leading scorer after the Orange lost Elijah Hughes to the NBA this offseason. Guerrier has improved his scoring average by almost ten points from his freshman year and leads the team with 16.7 points per game on almost 60% shooting.
Next to Guerrier, Illinois transfer Alan Griffin has become the focal point of the offense, being used on over a quarter of the Orange’s possessions. Griffin is coming off of a tough game against Miami where he only put up five points, but he had 28 last week in Syracuse’s loss at Pitt.
The Hokies will also be keying on Buddy Boeheim after his performance in Cassell Coliseum last January. Tech split the season series with Syracuse a season ago, with the road team winning each game. Boeheim exploded for 26 points leading the Orange to a two-point victory which started the Hokies’ late season slide. Tech lost 10 of its final 13 games after Syracuse’s visit to Blacksburg.
There is good news for the Hokies looking back to both of last year’s matchups. Cone seemed to have no issue shooting against the 2-3 with nine three-pointers against the Orange as a freshman. He’ll look for a bounce-back game in Western New York on Saturday.
The trip to Syracuse starts a stretch of four out of five games on the road for the Hokies which could decide the trajectory of the season. Tech has only played on the road twice this year, so Saturday will be the first of many tests to see if the Hokies are legit contender in the ACC.