January 3, 2015
Hokies' rally falls short in loss to Syracuse
By Jimmy Robertson
Syracuse (10-4, 1-0) 422668
Virginia Tech (8-6, 0-1) 234366
  • Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va. - 6,838
  • High Points: 22 - Justin Bibbs
  • High Rebounds: 11 - Justin Bibbs

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s Malik Müller missed a 3-pointer as time expired, and the Hokies fell 68-66 to Syracuse at Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon in the ACC opener for both teams.

With the loss, the Hokies dropped to 8-6 overall, 0-1 in the ACC. Syracuse, which beat Tech for the sixth straight time in the series, moved to 10-4, 1-0 in league play.

The loss marked the fourth by Tech this season of three points or less.

“Does that mean we’re good, or that mean we suck?” Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “It means we’re 8-6. It’s what Coach Parcells said – you are what your record says you are. I don’t think that with each passing day that you can continue to say the same thing over and over. At some point, you have to get past that.”

Tech trailed by as many as 22 points in the first half, but rallied to cut the lead to two points on two occasions in the second half.

The Hokies cut the lead 51-49 on two Devin Wilson free throws with 6:34 remaining. But Syracuse responded by scoring on six straight possessions, building a 62-51 lead after a free throw by Michael Gbinije with 2:22 remaining.

But Tech wouldn’t go away. Will Johnston hit a 3-pointer on the possession after Gbinije’s free throw, and then the Hokies started fouling. Syracuse couldn’t put the game away because it made just seven of its final 17 free-throw attempts.

The Orangemen led 68-66 and had Ron Patterson going to the line for two attempts with 4.3 seconds left. But Patterson missed both of them, and the Hokies, out of timeouts, raced down the court.

Justin Bibbs brought the ball up, and he found Müller in the corner. Müller launched a 3-pointer as time expired that came up well short.

“They [his players] did execute what we wanted to do after a free throw miss,” Williams said. “With 4.3 seconds left, I think we would take that all day. Bibbs coming down hill, draws help, makes a good pass … if you want to win the game, make the shot.”

Bibbs paced the Hokies with 22 points and 11 rebounds, tying his career high for points and surpassing his career high in rebounds. The performance marked the first double-double of Bibbs’ career.

Bibbs made 7-of-14 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. He was the lone starter to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor, as the Hokies shot just 39.3 percent and stayed in the game by making 10 3-pointers. Tech made seven 3-pointers in the second half and out-rebounded the taller Orangemen 20-16 in the final 20 minutes.

“We just played really hard on defense and we focused,” Bibbs said of the Hokies’ second-half performance. “We got rebounds. We boxed out. We were just focused and into the game, and we believed. That was the big difference in the second half.’

Wilson scored 13 points and dished out eight assists for the Hokies.

Trevor Cooney led the Orangemen with 18 points, while Rakeem Christmas scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Tyler Robertson had 11 points and 17 rebounds. Syracuse out-rebounded Tech 42-34.

Tech returns to ACC action on Tuesday night when it travels to Tallahassee, Florida, to take on the Seminoles. Tipoff is slated for 7p.m.

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