The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team saw its winning streak come to a close at Virginia Tech, falling to the Hokies 71-59. Syracuse dropped to 13-12 on the season and 7-7 in ACC play.
The Orange was without junior center Jesse Edwards, who fractured his left wrist against Boston College on Tuesday night. Edwards will miss the rest of the season. Frank Anselem started in his place and Bourama Sidibe saw his first action since the Duke game on Jan. 22.
Virginia Tech came out strong from beyond the arc behind three quick 3s from Hunter Cattoor. The Hokies dissected the 2-3 zone in the first half and went into the break with a ten point lead. Syracuse fought back to take the lead in the second with some hot shooting of its own thanks to Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim. But the shooting turned dry down the stretch as Virginia Tech ripped off a 13-0 run late to seal the game.
Here are our takeaways:
Too Mutts high-post
Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts finished his night with a triple-double as he scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out 11 assists. Eight of those helpers came in the first half as he operated around the high-post and Syracuse was happy to play along. The ball entered the free throw line area and Mutts sprayed the ball to teammates for open 3s as the Hokies shot 7-18 from deep in the first half.
Syracuse adjusted in the second half, having the center remain anchored to the restricted area, daring Mutts to shoot. And he did.
The game was tied at 54 late, but Mutts received a lob after a Syracuse turnover and his dunk gave Virginia Tech the lead for the final time. On the next play, Mutts received the ball in his office area and went to work. He made a floater to give his team a four point lead. On the next play from the high-post, Anselem was forced to play one on two and Mutts shoveled a pass to Keve Aluma for a dunk to make it 60-54. It was never a game after that.
Ultimately the Hokies didn’t have much resistance when getting the ball into weak spot of the 2-3 zone and the defense collapsed.
Turnovers come home to roost
On the whole, Syracuse has been pretty good about taking care of the ball, with a few exceptions. The Orange had eight first-half turnovers which proved to be costly as Virginia Tech had 12 points off turnovers and went into the break with a 39-29 lead.
Syracuse did a much better job valuing the ball in the second half with only three giveaways, but this 2-3 zone doesn’t generate enough turnovers to balance out miscues. Virginia Tech had just four turnovers on the game.
The Hokies had a 17-2 points off turnovers advantage and an 11-1 edge on the fast break. That, and a turnover at the 6:18 mark with the game tied at 54 propelled Virginia Tech to a 13-0 that decided the game.
11 turnovers isn’t a gaudy number, but when the points off turnovers disparity is 15 points it proves to be costly.
Frank Anselem has entered the chat
With Edwards sidelined for the season, backup center Frank Anselem earned his first start. Although Edwards’ scoring was missed, Anselem hauled in a career-high 15 rebounds in 37 minutes. It was the highest rebound total of any Syracuse player this season.
Anselem posted five points, two blocks and one assist to go with his tremendous rebounding effort. He played with great energy on the defensive end and was determined to attack the glass at both ends at every opportunity. It’s the kind of play Syracuse will need from him with the gaping hole at center.
Anselem’s impact was felt and although Bourama Sidibe played three minutes, Syracuse is going to have to rely on the sophomore center to finish out the season.