As the final hours of 2017 drew to an end Sunday night, the Virginia Tech Hokies desperately tried to mount a comeback against Syracuse, ultimately falling 68-56 in the Carrier Dome.
In their first game of ACC play, Virginia Tech kept it close in the beginning before Syracuse went on a 10-0 run to make the score 27-16 with 3:29 left in the first half. Justin Robinson made a 3-pointer with 2:12 remaining in the half, but it would be the Hokies last basket before the intermission. Holding the Hokies to their fewest first-half points this season, Syracuse took a 32-19 lead into halftime.
The Hokies came out of the locker room looking to gain some momentum and started the second half on an 11-2 run to make the score 34-31 with 14:35 remaining. Syracuse would return the favor, scoring 11 unanswered points to give the Orange a 45-31 lead with 11:31 left in the game.
Syracuse dominated the remainder of the game to pick up its first ACC win of the season while the Hokies dropped their first conference game.
Virginia Tech’s offensive performance was uncharacteristic of the Hokies, who rank second in the ACC in scoring at 91.3 points per game. The Hokies shot just 34.6 percent from the field, a staggering difference from their season mark of 55 percent. Tech also shot 33 percent on 3-pointers, well below their season mark of 44 percent.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker continued his outstanding freshman season, scoring a team-high 19 points for the Hokies. Alexander-Walker was 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. In one trip to the free throw line, Alexander-Walker was 1-for-1.
Justin Robinson scored 10 points for the Hokies on the night, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Robinson was 2-for-9 from the field and 2-for-6 on 3-pointers. He also led the Hokies with five assists.
Justin Bibbs also scored 10 points for Tech, going 4-for-13 from the field and 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. Bibbs finished 0-for-3 from the free throw line.
The Hokies’ other starters, Ahmed Hill and Kerry Blackshear, Jr., scored 6 and 4 points, respectively. Hill was 2-for-7 from three-point range. Blackshear was 1-for-2 from the field and 2-for-4 from the free throw line.
Chris Clarke led the Hokies with 10 rebounds, eight of them coming on the defensive side of the ball. Clarke was also 1-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the free throw line.
The loss drops the Hokies to 11-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play. Looking ahead, the Hokies return to Cassell Coliseum to face Virginia on Wednesday. Virginia boasts the nation’s number one scoring defense while the Hokies were sixth in scoring offense. Wednesday’s game tips off at 9 p.m.