Virginia Tech blew a 13-point second half lead by turning the ball over six times in the last 3:54, and Syracuse’s Michael Gbinije hit a game winning floater with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to give the Orange a 72-70 win over the Hokies. Tech dropped to 9-13 overall and 1-8 in ACC play, while Syracuse improved to 15-7 and 6-3.
The Hokies had eight turnovers in the last six minutes, and six in the last 3:54. That was enough for Syracuse to overcome a 63-50 deficit. The Orange, despite only playing seven players, put on a fullcourt press in the final minutes of the game that Tech had no answer for, showing (as we’ve been hinting at in TSL Pass articles) that the Hokies lack ideal ball handlers in the backcourt. Maryland transfer point guard Seth Allen should help with that next year, but for the rest of the season, Tech will simply be outmanned.
Besides the lack of ball handlers, the Hokies had to use 6-3 Malik Mueller to guard 6-9, 250 center Rakeem Christmas for much of the game. Christmas finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals. Mueller had nine points and four assists, but also had four turnovers.
Freshman Justin Bibbs paced Tech with 19 points and six rebounds, while fellow freshman Jalen Hudson had a career-high 18 points and seven rebounds. Adam Smith added 13 points while playing all 40 minutes, while Shane Henry had nine points and eight rebounds. Both Henry and freshman center Satchel Pierce fouled out, as the Hokies were whistled for 25 fouls to just 13 for Syracuse.
Besides the turnovers, the Hokies also made some bad decisions down the stretch. Adam Smith took a three-pointer with approximately 31 seconds on the shot clock and a little over one minute remaining, and Shane Henry committed his fifth foul while following his own free throw miss approximately 90 feet from the Syracuse basket. Despite trailing 34-30 at halftime, the Hokies completely outplayed the Orange for most of the second half, until they started turning the ball over and making bad decisions on the offensive end late in the game.
Coming into the game, Syrcause was #73 nationally in rebounding efficiency, while the Hokies were #332. Despite that, Tech tied the Orange 40-40 on the boards. However, VT’s lack of size on the inside made for a completely one-sided affair at the free throw line. Syracuse was 16-of-29 (55.2%), while the Hokies were 7-of-8 (87.5%). The Hokies had four more turnovers than Syracuse (16-12), and the turnovers and free throw disparity were ultimately the difference in the game.