BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech basketball team stayed with Syracuse for 35 minutes, but the No. 2-ranked Orangemen pulled away and remained perfect on the season with a 72-52 victory over the Hokies at Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night.
With the loss, the Hokies fell to 8-6 overall, 1-1 in the ACC. Syracuse moved to 15-0, 2-0 in league play.
Tech trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Hokies held the Orangemen to just one field goal in the final eight minutes of the first half and managed to cut the lead to 35-29 at halftime. Adam Smith scored nine points to lead the way for the Hokies, hitting three of his six 3-point attempts.
In the second half, the Hokies cut the Syracuse lead to 44-40 when Ben Emelogu banked in a free-throw line jumper with 14:44 left to play. But the Orangemen then took control of the game.
Syracuse went on a 16-0 run after Emelogu’s basket, stretching the lead to 60-40 on a basket by C.J. Fair with 6:45 left. The Hokies missed nine straight shots during that run and went more than eight minutes without scoring. Joey van Zegeren’s dunk off a missed Marshall Wood jumper stopped the run with 6:16 left.
“They went to their gun, Fair,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “He made some nice mid-range jump shots, and we weren’t as patient on offense as we needed to be. Once the lead started to get higher, I thought we started rushing a few shots, and then they got out on our shooters more. They left the high post open and said, ‘Hey, make your big guys score.’ We rushed those shots inside.”
Fair, the preseason player of the year in the ACC, paced a balanced Syracuse attack with 17 points, as four Orangemen scored in double figures. Syracuse shot 46.7 percent from the floor.
C.J. Barksdale led the Hokies with 12 points. Tech was shooting 45.5 percent from the floor before Syracuse’s run, but really slumped in the final 14 minutes and shot just 36.7 percent for the game against Syracuse’s noted 2-3 zone.
Adam Smith returned to the court for the first time since the VCU game for the Hokies and added nine points. Tech’s leading scorer, Jarell Eddie, scored just six points and hit 2 of 9 from the floor.
“It’s extremely difficult just because they’re so long and so active in it,” Eddie said. “They take up so much space on the floor that it’s hard to find shots. When you do find a shot, they’re able to recover with that length. That 2-3 zone is no joke.”
Tech will continue conference play on Saturday when it takes on Boston College at Cassell Coliseum. The tipoff for the game is slated for noon.
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