The Syracuse Orange had its three-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies by a score of 78-56 on Saturday night. Virginia Tech imposed their will on both sides of the ball from the opening tip and the Orange had no answer.
Here are our takeaways:
Defensive rotations not fast enough
When Syracuse went on their 11-0 run to open the second half, their defensive rotations were impeccable. Virginia Tech couldn’t swing the ball fast enough to find open looks. Outside of that four minute and thirty second stretch, Syracuse had no answer for the Hokies’ ball movement. VT was swinging the ball every which way, throwing skip passes at ease and finding wide open shooters on seemingly every possession. Buzz Williams and his players deserve credit for being prepared for and proactively attacking Syracuse’s zone. Syracuse was too slow on the defensive end tonight.
Elijah Hughes’ tough night
Elijah Hughes scored 6 points and turned the ball over 4 times in 29 minutes. It was apparent early in the game that Hughes was not prepared to handle the speed and pressure of Virginia Tech’s defense which resulted in Jim Boeheim sitting him on the bench in favor of Jalen Carey.
The Hokies scouted Hughes well as they sold out on his catch-and-shoot three-point shots and forced him to put the ball on the floor. When Hughes did dribble, VT would overplay his right hand and force him to use his left. He never was able to get comfortable.
Beyond Elijah Hughes’ four turnovers, Frank Howard and Tyus Battle each had three of their own. The issue of ball control went beyond the turnover numbers, however. With heavy ball pressure, the Hokies were able to put the Syracuse offense out of sync for the majority of the game. Howard and Battle never took control of the game and attacked the Virginia Tech defenders. Instead, the two allowed themselves to be sped up and the team couldn’t get anything going on offense as a result.
Howard and Battle’s lack of assertion was frustrating — the team needs its leaders to step up and right the ship when the game is getting away. Neither did. Instead, the pressure of VT’s Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill made Syracuse’s guards look like deer in headlights.
Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe combined for 36 minutes meaning Marek Dolezaj only had four minutes of run at the center position. With Virginia Tech’s heavy pressure and Syracuse’s inability to handle it, it would make sense that Syracuse would give themselves the best chance by putting five players on the floor that are capable of playing with the ball in their hands. Chukwu and Sidibe aren’t that. Rather than making an adjustment, Syracuse was force to play four on five on the offensive end against the best defense they have seen all season.
Brissett’s bounce back
Syracuse’s fans were mad online about Oshae Brissett’s struggles — particularly following the Miami game. Tonight, Brissett was the only bright spot for the Orange as he scored 16 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. He was Syracuse’s only source of offense for long stretches of the game and met Virginia Tech’s speed and physicality with some of his own. I talked about this a bit in this thread on Twitter:
Took a look at some film on Oshae Brissett to see if I could figure out why he's struggling:— Dylan Finer (@dfines31) January 26, 2019
This was Brissett's first touch of the game that he attacked. He uses a hop-step to get through two Miami defenders, the defense collapses and he kicks out for an open three. Great play pic.twitter.com/8tzOZuXTyU
This game suited Oshae Brissett’s play style much better than the Miami game had. Miami’s zone proved tough for the sophomore to handle. When he was able to face-up Virginia Tech defenders, he was aggressive in attacking the rim and could finish through the defenders. Hopefully Brissett’s performance continues as the team closes out their three-game road trip at Boston College and at Pittsburgh.
For Syracuse basketball news, highlights and analysis, follow Dylan on Twitter @dfines31