The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team saw their winning streak come to an end at Virginia Tech, falling to the Hokies 71-59. Syracuse fell to 13-12 on the season and 7-7 in ACC play.
The Orange were 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 match against Duke on January 22.
Virginia Tech came out strong from beyond the arc behind three fast 3s from Hunter Cattoor. The Hokies dissected the zone 2-3 in the first half and entered the break with a ten-point lead. Syracuse fought back to take the lead in the second with some hot shots through Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim. But the shot dried up in the streak as Virginia Tech pulled out a late 13-0 run to seal the game.
Here are our takeaways:
Too Mutts High Post
Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts ended his night with a triple-double as he scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and provided 11 assists. Eight of those assists came in the first half as he operated around the high post and Syracuse was happy to play the game. The ball entered the free throw line area and Mutts sprayed the ball on his teammates for an open 3 as the Hokies shot 7-18 from deep in the first half.
Syracuse adjusted in the second half, the center remaining anchored to the restricted area, challenging Mutts to shoot. And he did.
The game was tied at 54 late in the game, but Mutts received a lob after a Syracuse turnover and his dunk gave Virginia Tech the lead for the final time. On the next game, Mutts received the ball in his office and went to work. He made a floater to give his team a four-point lead. On the next game from the high post, Anselem was forced into a one-on-two and Mutts shoveled a pass to Keve Aluma for a dunk to make it 60-54. It wasn’t a game anymore after that.
In the end, the Hokies didn’t have much resistance when they put the ball into the weak spot in the 2-3 area and the defense crumbled.
Turnovers come home to roost
Overall, Syracuse has been pretty good at taking care of the ball, with a few exceptions. The Orange had eight turnovers in the first half, which proved costly as Virginia Tech was 12 points behind on turnovers and entered the break with a 39-29 lead.
Syracuse did a much better job of valuing the ball in the second half with just three freebies, but that 2-3 zone isn’t generating enough turnovers to make up for the mistakes. Virginia Tech had just four turnovers in the game.
The Hokies had a 17-2 point advantage on turnovers and an 11-1 advantage on the fast break. That, and a 6:18 turnover with a tie at 54 propelled Virginia Tech to a game-deciding 13-0.
11 turnovers is not a garish number, but when the point disparity on turnovers is 15 points, it turns out to be expensive.
Frank Anselem entered the chat
With Edwards sidelined for the season, backup center Frank Anselem got his first start. Although Edwards’ goal was missed, Anselem managed a career-high 15 rebounds in 37 minutes. It was the highest rebound total of any Syracuse player this season.
Anselem had five points, two blocks and an assist to go along with his terrific rebounding effort. He played with a lot of energy on the defensive side and was determined to attack the glass from both sides at every opportunity. It’s the kind of game Syracuse will need him with the gaping hole in the center.
Anselem’s impact was felt and although Bourama Sidibe played three minutes, Syracuse will have to rely on the second center to finish the season.