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Syracuse men’s basketball: Three takeaways from the loss to Virginia Tech

Defense? In this economy?

Syracuse v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange went on the road in search of a big win and they decided to make it easier on Orange fans by collapsing in the first half against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The Orange have now lost three of their last four games and with the Virginia Cavaliers coming to the Dome on Monday night, it’s getting late early for this group. Here are three takeaways from a disappointing performance in Blacksburg.

Death from the High Post

Virginia Tech got the ball to Justyn Mutts or Grant Basile at the high post with ease in the first half. The ball getting into that spot immediately collapsed the zone and led to lay-ups or open 3’s. The Hokies had 18 assists and 52 points at the half because of the way they forced the Orange into scramble mode simply by getting the ball to the foul line. Jim Boeheim tried some 1-3-1 but ditched that quickly.

Virginia Tech cooled off in the second half but still finished the game with 26 assists on 32 field goals as their ball movement had Syracuse defenders unable to keep pace. The Hokies were 19-28 inside the arc and the Orange had no answer for Basile (25 points) inside, Hunter Cattoor (20 points) outside or Mutts (11 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists) everywhere.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 28 Syracuse at Virginia Tech Photo by Brian Bishop/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Freshmen show up while seniors stumble

Judah Mintz bounced back from the UNC ending to put up 21 points and 8 assists (he did have five turnovers). Maliq Brown got his first career start and Justin Taylor got the early call and the two Virginia freshmen were positive factors in Blacksburg. Taylor had 9 points in the first half and finished with 12 for the game. Brown had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks and his defense on the press helped the Orange make it interesting for a while in the second half.

On the other hand Jesse Edwards started strong but was in foul trouble when Syracuse really needed his defense. and while we didn’t expect Joe Girard to keep scoring 20+ per game, he only had two free throws in the first half and finished with just 7 points. In a big road game like this you need your experienced players to step up and last night only Symir Torrence (8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals) did.

Syracuse v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

Where was the urgency?

Syracuse’s post-season hopes were hanging by a thread coming into this game. This was another chance at a Quad One win against a team the Orange beat handily a couple of weeks ago. Yet we didn’t see any full-court pressure while the Hokies took a 21-17 lead with 10 minutes to play to a 52-33 halftime advantage.

Edwards was in foul trouble. Girard and Chris Bell had been yanked for the defensive woes but Syracuse continued to watch the Hokies take and make open 3 after open 3. In the second half a unit of Torrence, Mintz, Taylor, Brown and Hima created turnovers, got defensive rebounds and converted baskets to get the Orange within 12 points with 10 minutes to play. They couldn’t sustain the run, but you have to wonder why Boeheim let the game get away in the first half without giving this group a chance to keep Syracuse in it.

No one is expecting the Orange to press from the opening tip, but you’ve got depth and athletes who have shown they can change the flow of the game with their pressure. So, why did it take a 22-point deficit to see a press attempted?

For a team that should be playing like it’s March, Syracuse looked like the team we saw in November.

What did you take from last night’s game?