Photo Credit: ACC Media/Virginia Tech Athletics
The Hokies’ extended hiatus since last Sunday’s win at Wake Forest ended today at Syracuse, as Tech faced their third true road test this season.
The Carrier Dome, with or without fans, has generally brought out the worst in the Hokies as last year’s win in central New York was the first in the Carrier Dome in over 30 years. The 78-60 loss today was a emphatic reminder of those struggles.
The home court advantage proved to exist in the first half, as Tech was sloppy out of the gate starting the game shooting just 3-of-13 from the field and putting Syracuse in the bonus with 10:23 left in the first half. The Hokies ended the half shooting just 11-of-32 from the field, but six of their made attempts were from behind the arc, led by four triples from Naheim Alleyne who carried the scoring load for Tech especially early in the contest.
Tech’s usual contributors, Jalen Cone and Keve Aluma, continued their cold streaks from the Wake Forest game on Sunday. Aluma, in particular, struggled finishing underneath Syracuse’s patented zone defense, shooting just 1-of-6 in the first half and 1-of-10 overall. He failed to control the defensive glass (just one defensive rebound) allowing Syracuse to gather eight offensive boards, extending defensive possessions.
In addition, Aluma’s decision making was slow in the center of the zone which makes running offense against Syracuse much more complicated. Aluma failed to make an impact on the defensive end, picking up his fourth foul with plenty of time remaining in the second half.
Jalen Cone was unsuccessful on his eight of his nine attempts from behind the arc, a disappointing shooting performance for one of the ACC’s best snipers this season. Overall, Tech shot 8-of-29 from behind the arc on the afternoon. When Aluma is not playing well, the Hokies seem to revert back to a three-point dependent team, which may be something for Mike Young to take a look at as we approach the midpoint of the ACC schedule.
The second half was more of the same inconsistent ball movement and shot making, except this time the Hokies’ did not have anyone carry the scoring as Alleyne did in the first half.
Tech turned the ball over six times in the first ten minutes of the second half, allowing Syracuse to get easy fast break scores as the Orange extended their lead to nine. Tech, after starting 5-of-10 from behind the arc, made just one of their next thirteen triple attempts. A few more empty offensive possessions later, Syracuse held an insurmountable nineteen point advantage. The Hokies scored just 24 points after the break in total.
A lot of credit goes to Syracuse for their execution, hustle, and willingness to take advantage of matchups. Alan Griffin and Quincy Guerrier were not shy in backing down the Hokies’ smaller backcourt players like Jalen Cone or Tyrece Radford. Griffin stuffed the entire stat sheet, scoring 15 points, chipping in with ten rebounds and blocked seven shots - a large reason why Tech was unsuccessful against the 2-3 zone. Guerrier led the Orange with 20 points on an efficient 6-of-11 shooting.
The Hokies were led by Naheim Alleyne’s 20 points, but only six of them came after halftime. There were many more poor performances from the Hokies than positive ones, but David N’Guessan, despite dealing with foul trouble, looked confident and decisive as a finisher with 10 points on the day. He may get more minutes should Aluma continue to not play well.
The loss to Penn State and this loss to Syracuse have been Tech’s worst performances of the season, and the themes of why they lost are similar. The ball movement, shooting, and defense were mediocre at best and opportunistic teams will take advantage of that. The Hokies were No. 16 in the AP Poll entering the day, but it's hard to imagine they will retain a spot in the top 25 after this performance.