The Orange took a one point lead into halftime, but quickly lost it as the Hokies opened up the period by hitting two straight three’s by Adam Smith and Malik Muller. They combined to go 6-11 from beyond the arc on the night. The seven three’s made by the Hokies in the second half wasn’t enough to propel them to victory.
“This comeback ranks up there with any win that I’ve ever been a part of,” Coach Boeheim said.
With the Orange trailing by two with 41 seconds to play Michael Gbinije went to the line for two shots. Up to that point he was only 4-8 from the stripe on the evening, but hit both and tied the game at 70. After a Virginia Tech turnover Gbinije came back down the court and hit the game-winning layup to give the Orange the victory.
SU shot just 16-29 from the line, but used clutch free throw’s from Christmas and Gbinije late to justify those poor numbers. The Orange wasn’t any better from beyond the arc. ‘Cuse shot just 19%(4-21) from three and surprisingly only 1-12 from long range in the second half.
Virginia Tech outshot SU from the three-point line, 50% to SU’s 19%, but Syracuse forced 10 second half turnovers, including six in the final few minutes.
As has been the case most of the season SU’s “big three” combined for 51 of the team’s 72 points. Trevor Cooney shot just 2-12 from the field, but scored 9 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the Orange.
It looked as if SU was about to suffer what would have been a tragic conference loss to the ACC’s worst team, but the Orange win may have been more of a case of the youth and inexperience of the Hokies turning the ball over multiple times when Syracuse put on the press.
“We have to take some credit,” Boeheim said. “But they made some bad mistakes [down the stretch].”
WHAT WE LIKED: When Michael Gbinije went to the free throw line with the Orange trailing by two, you would have been lying if you said he was confidant that he was going to hit those two. Up to that point he was just 4-8 from the stripe and after swishing the first one he banked in the second to tie the game and shrugged his shoulders as if to say I’ll take what I can get.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE: Kaleb Joseph struggled again defensively. The freshman missed weak side rotations on four separate occasions allowing the Hokies to hit four three’s off those mistakes. Coach Boeheim described it as “very disappointing.”
KEY MOMENT: Michael Gbinije had just hit two free throws with 41 seconds to play to tie the game. On the next possession for the Hokies Ahmed Hill made a costly turnover giving the ball back to the Orange. With the ball in Gbinije’s hands once again the 6’7” combo guard made a crafty move into the lane and sank the game winning layup with just .01 left on the clock. The Hokies inbounded, flung up a full court prayer, missed, and SU went on to claim the win.
STATS OF THE DAY Rakeem Christmas put in another double double for SU finishing with 15 points and 12 boards. Tyler Roberson continued his dynamic rebounding with 11 on the night and although he shot just 2-12 from three Trevor Cooney added 18 points to lead the Orange.
NOTES Virginia Tech moved to 1-8 in ACC play as they remain at the bottom of the standings in the conference. Syracuse had lost 3-4 before tonight’s win over the Hokies and now sit at 6-3 in ACC play. The score was tied six separate times during tonight’s contest in a game that saw eight different lead changes.
UP NEXT The Orange will have three days off before it travels to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday for a road matchup against the Panthers. Game time is set for 4p.m. from the Petersen Events Center.