No. 16 Virginia Tech (11-3, 5-2) had no answers on Saturday afternoon as Syracuse (9-4, 3-3) pulled away in the second half for a 78-60 win.
“It was nothing more than the better team this afternoon won a basketball game,” Head Coach Mike Young said.
Tech trailed by just three at the 13-minute mark of the second half, but in the next eleven minutes, the Orange outscored the Hokies 31-9 to take a 25-point lead. A 7-0 run to finish the game helped Tech close the gap, but the game was far out of reach.
“Maybe our lack of banging shots affected our defense a little bit, I don’t know,” Young said. “Obviously, Syracuse just outplayed the Hokies this afternoon.”
“At the end of the day, they went out there and played their game today, not to take anything away from them, but our defense needs to get back into the lab,” forward Justyn Mutts said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Alan Griffin also stuffed the stat sheet for Syracuse with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double and a career-high seven blocks. His work defensively and the always-adjusting 2-3 zone made things difficult for the Hokies offensively.
“I felt like we had great looks, but we just weren’t making shots,” sophomore guard Nahiem Alleyne said. “That happens, and we just have to be better next time.”
The highlight for Tech was Alleyne’s first-half performance with 17 points including four three-pointers. However, Alleyne didn’t score again until the final minute of the game when the result was already decided.
“They were keying in on me in the second half,” Alleyne said. “Once we got into the middle, they were spreading out to shooters like me, so I really couldn’t get any rhythm. Credit to those guys over there.”
Alleyne didn’t get much help from the Hokies’ usual leading scorers. For the second straight game, Keve Aluma and Jalen Cone couldn’t find any sort of rhythm offensively, and it was the same result as Sunday’s game against Wake Forest, with just five points between the two of them. Over the last two contests, they have combined to shoot 3-of-29 from the floor.
“We do need for them to play well, you need your better players to play well,” Young said. “I’ve got a lot of things sifting through my head right now about how I’m going to get those two guys going. It’s important to them and they are serious basketball players, they’ll be better against Notre Dame.”
“I thought he played very well in the second half, but for him to put two games together like that is big,” Young said. “He can guard a lot of things because he moves his feet so well. I’m encouraged by David’s play; he’s playing good basketball.”
The Hokies are now 1-2 on the road this year and won’t have much time at home over the next few weeks. Three of their next four are away from Blacksburg, starting with a rematch against Notre Dame on Wednesday in South Bend.
“It’s not easy, it’s hard [to win on the road], Young said. “I can’t say that I feel internally that’s a concern, but it’s always a concern to try to win away from home. It’s something that you have to do if you expect to compete at the top of your league.”
The good news for Young’s squad is that they have bounced back after both of their previous two losses, including a win over the Irish following the Hokies’ last loss at Louisville.