SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) It's defense - not offense - that's winning games for the streaking Syracuse Orange, who are putting on a drive for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Our defense was outstanding,'' said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose Orange defeated Georgia Tech 60-57 Saturday for the team's fifth win in six outings. ''Like Wisconsin (a 66-58 overtime loss), we missed some free throws down the stretch and the only way we overcame it was our defense - it was spectacular.''
Three foul shots down the stretch by Malachi Richardson lifted Syracuse (15-8, 5-5 ACC) to the win.
Adam Smith missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer for the Yellow Jackets (12-9, 2-6).
''Trevor (Cooney) and Mike (Gbinije) are so good at the guard spot and they did such a great job defensively on (Adam) Smith there at the end, I can't even tell you,'' Boeheim said. ''They couldn't even get the shot. That was as good a defense at the end there as I've ever seen.''
Syracuse's defense has improved markedly since Boeheim's return from a nine-game suspension, no coincidence according to Gbinije.
''Boeheim's a competitor,'' Gbinije said. ''Any slip-up and he's going to let you know. That's what makes our defense really good. When we play well on defense we're in every game and offense is just icing on the cake.''
Cooney said the defense has been evolving and improving.
''I think guys are starting to understand the 2-3 zone a little more, and the more we work together and communicate and move together the better we've been, and we've done that the last couple of games,'' Cooney said. ''Mike and I kept people in front, we took away the high post, we found the shooters and that's what we're going to need going forward - which is good defense.''
The game was the second straight low-scoring affair between the two teams. Syracuse outlasted Georgia Tech 46-45 a year ago.
''At times it wasn't the most fluid game but it was a tough, hard-nosed game,'' said Tech coach Brian Gregory. ''We just didn't make enough plays down stretch We've got to make teams earn shots, earn baskets, instead of them getting shots at the free-throw line.''
Gbinije led the Orange with 16 points. Richardson scored all of his 13 points in the second half. DaJuan Coleman chipped in with 11.
Nick Jacobs had 14 points for the Yellow Jackets. Smith added 13 and Ben Lammers had 10.
Georgia Tech went on a 7-0 run, capped by an NBA-length 3 by Smith, to take a 46-44 lead with 13:17 to go. The teams were tied at 49 when Lammers scored on an alley-oop to give the Yellow Jackets the lead with 6:03 remaining.
Syracuse then missed the front end of consecutive 1-and-1 opportunities. A Jacobs layup gave the Yellow Jackets a 53-49 margin with more than five minutes to go. Richardson hit a 3 from the top of the key to bring the Orange within one.
Freshman Franklin Howard, who had a career-high six assists, hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 53. Gbinije's two free throws gave the Orange a 57-55 lead with 1:25 to go, setting up Richardson's shots at the line.
Georgia Tech: Marcus Georges-Hunt averaged 25.3 points over his last three games, including 26 in Wednesday night's win at N.C. State, but scored just six Saturday. ... Georgia Tech's six ACC losses have been by a combined 29 points.
Syracuse: Michael Gbinije has scored in double figures in every game. . Tyler Roberson is one of four ACC players averaging a double-double in league games.
Georgia Tech hosts Duke Tuesday.
Syracuse is home Tuesday against Virginia Tech.