It’s been a depleted Virginia Tech team the past few games due to injuries. And it was compounded even more yesterday, when coach Buzz Williams announced sophomore center Kerry Blackshear would officially miss the rest of the season and redshirt due to a stress reaction in his shin.
The Hokies got a couple of those bodies back Tuesday night and pulled away late for an 83-73 win over visiting Syracuse. The win ended their two-game losing streak.
Senior forward Zach LeDay led five Virginia Tech players in double figures with 22 points to go with six rebounds. Junior guard Justin Bibbs added 18 points seven rbounds, while sophomore forward Chris Clarke had 17 points and another seven rebounds. The Hokies had just six turnovers, with 20 assists on 28 made field goals.
"We've been focused on it and I thought we were much more connected," Williams said. "We executed the scheme of what we wanted to do and that's why we won. Obviously, I think we're a good offensive team. There are ways we can be better, but when our turnover rate is low, good things are gonna happen."
"Our point guard play has been really good and it was as bad as it's ever been, tonight," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I don't have an explanation for that. We had two really good games and the first half John Gillon was 0-3 with no assists and two turnovers. Can't play that way."
Virginia Tech got some good news to start, as senior guard Seth Allen and freshman center Khadim Sy were both available. Allen missed the game at Florida State due to a concussion, while Sy rolled his ankle just before and missed the NC State game and was limited against the Seminoles. Allen checked in almost four minutes into the game and played 31 minutes, while Sy saw his first action at the 13:24 mark. He played just six minutes, however.
"It was good just to get those reps and get back," Allen said. "I think it helped me."
Syracuse grabbed an early 5-2 lead, before the Hokies reeled off an 11-2 run. The Orange battled back and tied the game, though, at 18 apiece with 9:13 left.
The Syracuse height advantage did cause some problems, as it held a 21-14 rebounding edge. But Virginia Tech was able to combat that by planting LeDay or Clarke on the baseline for some easy baskets. The Hokies also had just one first half turnover and shot 45.2 percent from the floor. The Orange had seven turnovers and shot 37.9 percent.
"I wouldn't say they were forgetting us," Clarke said. "All our spacing goes to our shooters on the wings. I think you have to really respect them because they're some of the best shooters in the conference."
Virginia Tech grabbed an eight-point lead with under two minutes in the half after a steal then uncontested dunk by Clarke, but settled for a 37-31 advantage at the break. He led the first-half scoring with 11 points, while LeDay had nine.
The Hokies then opened the second half with a bang. Sophomore guard Ahmed Hill capped an 8-2 run with a three-pointer from the corner that put his team ahead 45-33. It also caused Boeheim to call timeout at the 16:23 mark, livid at both his players and the officials.
As they did in the first half, the Orange quickly responded. They used an 8-0 run to close within 45-41 at the 14-minute mark.
A few mistakes by Virginia Tech allowed its lead to shrink even more. Junior forward Tyrone Outlaw was caught sleeping and not back on a full court press, which led to a foul by him on a Syracuse layup. A three-pointer by Tyus Battle then got the Orange within 51-48 and forced a Hokies timeout at the 10:25 mark.
But Virginia Tech rebuilt its lead thanks to some great ball movement, a pair of three-pointers and an emphatic put-back dunk by Clarke. The latter put the Hokies ahead 64-52 and resulted in a Syracuse timeout with 5:16 to play. Their largest lead, though, came with 4:31 to play, after a pair of Allen free throws put them up 69-54 and they’d coast from there.
"I don't think we really paid attention to the runs," LeDay said. "We just wanted to play defense and we focused on that. Once we made that our focus, we were able to consistently get stops when we needed 'em and get out and score like we always do."
Virginia Tech is back home Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip-off against Notre Dame. That game will be televised by the ACC Network.null