Syracuse survives Virginia Tech rally, 68-66
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said the Orange did pretty much what they wanted at Virginia Tech on Saturday, bolting to a 42-23 lead and seemingly capable of almost choosing the final score against the undermanned Hokies.
It all changed in the second half.
''I think we had a little false sense of security at halftime,'' Boeheim said. ''We were in such a good position, but I just think they came after us better. They did a better job of getting in our defense.''
Virginia Tech opened the second half on a 21-7 run and closed to within 51-49 with 6:34 remaining before the Orange scored eight of the next nine points. The Hokies got within one possession in the closing seconds, after Ron Patterson missed a pair of free throws for the Orange with 4.3 seconds left, but Malik Muller's 3-pointer from the left corner was off line.
Trevor Cooney scored 18 points, but only four after halftime, and Rakeem Christmas had seven of his 17 in the second half for the Orange (10-4, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who had 15 offensive rebounds, but only four after halftime.
''We couldn't get the ball,'' Boeheim said. ''We couldn't get to it. We didn't rebound it in the second half like we did in the first half. They got second opportunities and our offense, we got the ball. We really got some good shots.
''We missed a few around the basket and you have to keep scoring anywhere but especially on the road, and we really did not score, could not score for periods of time.''
The Hokies (8-6, 0-1) got 22 points and 11 rebounds from Justin Bibbs and 13 points and eight assists from Devin Wilson.
The play to Muller, first-year Hokies coach Buzz Williams, is one he would take every day, but when it missed, the Hokies had their fifth game determined by one possession, and their fourth loss in those games.
''If you want to win the game, make the shot,'' Williams said.
Trailing by 19, the Hokies surged out of the locker room after halftime.
Bibbs scored nine as the Hokies pulled within 49-44 with less than eight minutes to play. As Williams exhorted his team from the sideline, shedding his jacket and then his vest, the fans quickly whipped themselves into upset-thinking frenzy.
A 3-pointer by Muller after a dunk by Christmas at the other end cut the lead to 51-47, and two free throws by Devin Wilson made it 51-49 with 6:34 to go, but after a turnover by the Orange, the Hokies missed on a drive by Wilson and a tip-in, and Roberson hit a baseline jumper at the other end, sparking a run to a 61-51 lead with 2:43 remaining.
''This is a lesson in how big our heart is and no matter what the deficit, you've just got to play hard, no matter what,'' Bibbs said. ''We've just got to keep moving along and keep getting better every day. Every day.''
The Orange led 15-13 after 6 1/2 minutes before they went on a 20-4 run over the next eight minutes.
Kaleb Joseph started it with a pair of free throws, Christmas scored seven points and Cooney finished the burst with a 3-pointer, giving the Orange a 35-16 lead with 5:41 remaining in the half.
At that point, Syracuse had as many offensive rebounds, 8, as the Hokies had rebounds, and the Orange had made four 3-pointers to the Hokies' five baskets total. They were dominant in every phase before the intermission.
Syracuse: Syracuse has now won six straight against Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were without suspended forward Joey van Zegeren and injured freshman guard Jalen Hudson.
Syracuse plays at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
The Hokies play at Florida State on Tuesday night.
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