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Syracuse 82, Virginia Tech 72: bench production, hot shooting power Orange to bounce back win

Syracuse gets a needed home win.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After losing to one Virginia team in its previous game, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (11-6, 4-2) redeemed itself against another, as a 22-6 run to begin the second half powered Syracuse to an 82-72 bounce-back win over the Virginia Tech Hokies (11-6, 1-5).

Offensively, Syracuse received efficient production from its three best players. Judah Mintz, Joe Girard, and Jesse Edwards combined for 42 while bench contributors Justin Taylor (10 points and 50% shooting) and Maliq Brown (11 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals/blocks, and 5/7 shooting) sparked multiple runs that allowed the Orange to build and hold its double-digit lead.

Virginia Tech looked to attack Syracuse’s zone early, especially with the Hokies’ big man duo of Justin Mutts and Grant Basile scoring 10 points on 5/7 shooting to begin the game. Jesse Edwards struggled out of the gate defensively, with coach Jim Boeheim making an early substitution of Edwards for Mounir Hima. Boeheim also inserted Maliq Brown and Justin Taylor off the bench early.

Despite a somewhat slow start for the Orange (including 4/12 shooting to begin the game), Syracuse came back from an early 12-7 deficit thanks to Edwards heating up and the team getting some instant offense off the bench from Taylor, Brown, and Symir Torrence. ‘Cuse surged out to a strong 10-2 run in the middle of the first half, which included this alley-oop slam by Edwards off the pass from Joe Girard.

To its credit, Syracuse moved the ball in the first half pretty well, with nine of the Orange’s first 10 baskets coming off of assists and six different players taking at least two shots after 12 minutes of action. Although the team shot out of the gate slow on offense, some early turnovers by Virginia Tech and the Orange not forcing shots allowed Syracuse to stay close for most of the first half. In particular, Edwards, (9 points, 4 assists, and 50% shooting in the first half) looked more comfortable offensively with the ball in his hands after struggling against #13 Virginia.

Both teams traded baskets in the last few minutes of the first half, but 18 first-half bench points by the Orange and a 5/10 start from three allowed Syracuse to go up as much as eight points (43-35) before halftime. At the end of the first half, Syracuse led Virginia Tech 43-37 with each program shooting over 51% from the field.

Four Hokies players scored at least eight points in the first half in what became an all-around effort offensively for Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the Girard-Mintz backcourt combined for 13 points and 5 assists in the first half, while Taylor (8 points), Brown (5 points and 5 rebounds), and Symir Torrence (5 points) all gave the Orange multiple tough baskets and some energy on defense heading into halftime.

Syracuse started off scorching hot coming out of halftime, going on a 12-2 run in the first three and a half minutes of the second half. At one point, the Orange led 65-43 over the Hokies, with the 22-point lead being its largest of the second half. This included eight points from the Mintz-Girard backcourt duo and overall improved defensive rebounding by the Brown-Edwards frontcourt.

On the opposite side, Virginia Tech’s poor outside shooting (3/19 from three) made it easier for the Orange to put extra pressure on the Hokies defensively in the interior. This and-one finish by Mintz kept the momentum going, as Syracuse outscored Virginia Tech 22-6 in the first nine minutes of the second half.

Although Virginia Tech cut Syracuse’s lead to as low as 11 in the second half, the Orange scored enough baskets down the stretch to secure an 82-72 win over the Hokies. Girard led the way with 24 points and 3 assists on 50% shooting, while Mintz (12 points and 3 assists) and Edwards (13 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists) kept the Orange’s offense afloat in the second half. Syracuse also surged, in the end, thanks to an 8/16 team performance from three and some quality minutes from Taylor and Brown off the bench.

The win pushes the Orange to 4-2 in conference play and 8-3 in the Dome heading into its Saturday night game against Notre Dame. The victory against the Hokies also means ‘Cuse has now won eight of its last 10 games.

There were some hiccups at the beginning and the end, but both the starters and reserves mostly played well as Syracuse’s offense returned to form against Virginia Tech.