The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets started and finished the game on the run. Not only did they attack in transition off misses and 14 Syracuse Orange turnovers, they entered the zone and shot quickly.
The typical rebounding dominance for the Orange dissipated into only a +4 advantage there, en route to 55-51 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
The archetypal Syracuse game returned in a second straight road matchup. Seven of the Orange’s first eight shots failed to fall. Bourama Sidibe awkwardly went up with a pass from Frank Howard and his attempt hit the rim flatly, Oshae Brissett mishandled a bad Georgia Tech corner three attempt out of bounds, leading to a second-chance score inside. Every rebound became a team effort without time to sit into the zone.
Georgia Tech struggled to shoot, hitting 32 percent in the first half, but the Orange fell into one of the its lowest pits of offensive stagnancy all season. Their 21 first half points tied a worst for 2017-18. The 29.2 percent shooting in that same stretch stood a near-rock bottom mark too.
SU received opportunities through bad shots, decent pass attempts by Frank Howard and a sensational rebounding half from Brissett (four). However, most possessions fell flat, including Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie ripping the ball from Paschal Chukwu hanging it out loosely and low in the post. Jim Boeheim immediately pulled him.
The Yellow Jackets had just capped an 8-0 run and soon after the Chukwu turnover, one of eight for the Orange in the first 20. Ben Lammers handed GT a 16-7 lead hauling in a quick, long miss and laying it in. GT’s strategy of quick entry, immediate shot attempts and scrambling for activity on the boards helped undermine SU’s usual rebounding advantage.
A typical transition push sparked six straight shots early and solidified a 24-21 lead at halftime, Tyus Battle shooting just 1-of-7.
Sloppiness continued to start the second, SU doubled on Brandon Alston up top and he swung to Okogie hit an easy three on the swing to his left. Battle pushed a 4-0 run to respond, but Okogie scored five straight in his own rebuttal. Once again GT pushed off point-blank misses by Syracuse, including an alley-oop to Okogie after Brissett missed inside.
Jose Alverado kept plays alive, stripping Dolezaj from behind on a defensive rebound and grabbing an offensive board of his own in the first five minutes. The two teams traded misses for four minutes until 12 remained, allowing GT to maintain a six point lead following Lammers free throws. He’d cap the game by draining over ten seconds on a defensive tip into the back court.
GT’s game plan thrived, as SU struggled to push the ball inside to Sidibe, who missed an inside look off Howard’s pick-and-roll pass, Tadric Jackson ran the other way for a dunk. The Yellow Jackets led 38-29.
Then, the turnover game shifted to the Orange’s favor. In 30 seconds Sidibe drained two free throws, Dolezaj flushed a transition dunk then immediately got back at Alverado for a steal, flipping to Brissett for a dunk. SU broke within three.
Just as quickly, the Yellow Jackets flushed three straight makes, two from Jackson, and re-established themselves with 6:15 remaining.
The trends all continued, down 46-41 Battle got blocked inside, Georgia Tech ran to the rim in transition and got fouled. Jackson missed both, but Battle lost the rebound out-of-bounds.
Syracuse continued to push back with free throws, Battle hit five to go with a three-pointer falling within three points. Lammers immediately grabbed two offensive rebounds, finishing the second inside and Alvarado sealed the deal stealing the ball from Chukwu.
Ahead of a vital matchup with No. 2 Virginia at home, SU lost, 55-51, and a blew a chance to build momentum toward a bid for March with a bad conference loss now hanging over its head.