The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team picked up its first quadrant two victory of the season by taking down Virginia Tech 82-72 at home on Wednesday night. Syracuse is now 8-1 all-time against the Hokies at home.
The Orange started sluggish once again, but was able to build a 43-37 lead by the intermission thanks to nine points from Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards on top of a big lift from the bench.
Syracuse kept its foot on the gas in the second half and built a lead as large as 22 due to a hot offense. The Hokies, meanwhile, struggled to find the bottom of the net as Syracuse’s steady guard play flourished.
Girard led his team with 24 points and Edwards made his presence felt, finishing just shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds to go with six assists and two blocks. Jim Boeheim is also getting more out of his forwards and he just might’ve found something in Maliq Brown.
Overall, a good team win for Syracuse with contributions across the board. To the takeaways.
Freshmen forwards continue to progress
Don’t look now, but the freshmen forwards just hit their stride.
The pair of freshmen from Virginia continued to build off their progress from Saturday’s loss at Virginia. Brown and Justin Taylor gave Syracuse important minutes off the bench, particularly in the first half. Brown scored five points and grabbed five rebounds while Taylor scored eight points on a pair of threes in the first half.
Taylor has been much more aggressive in looking for his shot. In the second half, Brown started in place of Benny Williams. He finished with the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“He’s going to be a great player the rest of the year for us,” Joe Girard said of Brown post-game.
Taylor finished with ten points and a pair of boards. The two played starter’s minutes off the bench in two straight games.
Should this lineup of Justin Taylor and Maliq Brown at forward be the starting lineup?— Tommy Hogan (@_tommyhogan) January 12, 2023
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they’re playing so well with those guys on that court for so much of it
No Hunter Cattoor equals less problems for Syracuse.
The Orange has struggled to defend the three this year, having given up 33.8% opponent outside coming into the night. Syracuse also doesn’t quite have the big guns from outside as it did a year ago on the opposite end, either.
But the three point differential was key in this game. Virginia Tech freshman Rodney Rice made his season debut but finished 0-5 from three. Sean Pedulla really struggled to make shots and took a few frustration pulls. He finished 2-11 from deep.
While Virginia Tech tried to work the ball into the high-post and around the rim for much of the second half the Hokies couldn’t connect from deep all night.
Virginia Tech shot 15.8% from outside while Syracuse shot a season-high 50% from range, knocking down 8-16.
A confident Girard endures
After his 24 point night against Virginia Tech, Joe Girard is now averaging 21.8 points per game in ACC play. He put up 20 shots in this one (shooting 50%) and he spoke to the green light and faith Jim Boeheim has given him.
“That’s the reason you come to Syracuse. Coach plays through his guards and let’s them be confident. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason,” Girard said. “It was a dream of mine to play for him.”
Girard was ripe with confidence in this game with passion to match. Raised arms after made threes, shoulder shrugs and a few, ‘Let’s go!’ rallying cries were telling of Girard’s self-assurance. He has his limitations to be sure, but the gap between Girard now and his three game skid in the early season is a mile wide.