Syracuse freshman Malachi Richardson comes alive late in OT win

Syracuse freshman Malachi Richardson struggled again in the first half, but came alive in a big way down the stretch for the Orange.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse freshman Malachi Richardson has seen his role with the Orange grow throughout the season. We all have. 

We've also seen Richardson take big shots. We've seen him at his best, his worst and we're beginning to see when he's most comfortable: late game situations.

"I just want to make plays," he said when talking about stepping up down the stretch. "I just want to be aggressive and make the best play possible."

His two first-half points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor was better than his first half on Saturday afternoon. Against Georgia Tech, the freshman was held scoreleses before 13 second-half points helped the Orange defeat the Yellow Jackets, 60-57.

Syracuse started the game slowly on Tuesday, and it seemed like it wasn't going to be their night.

Luckily for SU, nobody told Richardson that. "I never thought we'd lose. I always know as a player and as a teammate, my teammates are going to fight for me and I'm always fighting for my teammates."

Malachi regrouped at the intermission and was eager to have another big second half for the Orange.

"I tend to let the game come to me. I don't want to sound passive, but I tried to pick my spots in the first half. In the second half I tried to come out a little bit more aggressive and make plays," he said.

Syracuse needed every bit of Richardson's second half contributions to pull off a miraculous comeback to avoid a crushing upset at home. Malachi went 2-for-4 from 3-point range in the second half. One of those 3-pointers came with under two minutes remaining in the game with the Orange down seven. He caught the ball in the corner and swished in a three to cut Va. Tech's lead to four.

"Shooters always gotta keep shooting," he said after SU's 68-60 overtime victory. "You just got to get the ball to go in. Sometimes it doesn't, but we have to keep fighting and stay in the game."

After his crucial 3-pointer, he assisted a Tyler Lydon dunk on SU's next possession. VT's Justin Bibbs went 1-of-2 at the free throw line before Michael Gbinije hit an NBA-range 3-pointer to tie the game at 56 with 26.9 remaining in regulation.

"We needed them [big plays]," he said. "Any shot we could get. We really struggled shooting the ball today, especially as a team. So, I think it was big for us to make those shots coming down the end."

"Offense is very important and making shots is important," the New Jersey native said. "But I think getting stops and playing defense will win you games."

Malachi added five points in overtime to finish with 13 for the game. His third 3-pointer of the game was the dagger for the Hokies. It extended SU's lead to 66-60 in overtime, ultimately ending VT's chances of a comeback.

He finished the game 4-of-13 from the field and 3-of-8 from behind the arc.

"I knew we'd make a push, especially towards the end. That's something we've always talked about and something we're always gonna do."

"I think I've earned [my role]," he said. "I've played well to be able to take certain shots and make plays.

His confidence, however, will never change. "I don't think I've ever lost my confidence. I've always been a confident kid and I've always believed in myself to make those plays."

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