Virginia Tech continued their major ACC skid Wednesday night falling to Syracuse 82-72 in the JMA Wireless Dome. While a 10-point loss doesn’t seem like the end of the world, the Hokies were down as much as 20 points midway through the second half and put up an abysmal performance on both ends.
Virginia Tech falls to 11-6 on the season and an ugly 1-5 in ACC play. It’s worth noting that last season, Tech started 2-7 in the ACC, but rebounded to win the ACC Tournament title in Brooklyn. However, the Hokies have a long way to go if they want to repeat last year's turnaround magic.
Here are three takeaways from Tech’s double digit loss to the Orange in Syracuse.
1. Hokies Can’t Throw the Ball in the Ocean
72 points isn’t the worst offensive output in the world, but it isn’t good enough when the defense can’t step up either. The worst of the Hokies' offense came from beyond the three-point arc where Tech shot a dreadful 3-19 (15%) on the night. The only makes from downtown were from Sean Pedulla, who shot 2-11 from three, and one last second heave from Grant Basile as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Hokies needed to shoot it well from three if they had any chance of breaking the Orange’s famed 2-3 zone defense.
However, the ball didn’t drop through the net, and it resulted in far too many poor possessions that added up for the Hokies. Offensively, Tech was led by Justyn Mutts and Grant Basile, who combined for 47 of the Hokies 72 points. Mutts shot 9-15 from the floor which was good for 21 points to go along with nine assists and four rebounds. Basile shot it at a 12-17 clip which resulted in a game-high 26 points and he grabbed 10 rebounds.
However, the Hokies are going to need some balance from outside to fully maximize their offensive potential.
2. Tech’s Defensive Woes Pop Back Up
All season, Virginia Tech hasn’t had too much to ride home about on the defensive end of the court.
Wednesday night, they allowed Syracuse to score 82 points and it could’ve been more had the Orange taken the Hokies as seriously once the game had been wrapped up with a few minutes left to play.
Syracuse shot the ball at a smoking 51% from the floor including 8-16 (50%) from three-point range for the game. Tech didn’t stay disciplined at all for 40 minutes of basketball and the results showed particularly on defense.
Tech allowed five Orangemen to score in double figures. The Cuse were led by Joseph Girard’s 24 points and saw many other contributors leave their mark. The Hokies notched eight steals and three blocks. Three steals came from freshman Rodney Rice while Pedulla and Mutts both had two steals apiece. Two blocks came from Darius Maddox as he was one of the more locked-in defenders in this game.
Tech will need more consistency compared to the peaks and valleys they had tonight on the defensive end that proved costly.
3. Rodney Rice Won’t Solve Most of Tech’s Issues
One of the headlines for the Hokies was the debut performance of Rodney Rice. The former top 50, four-star recruit has been held out by the medical staff in every contest prior to this game, but finally entered the court of play for Tech vs Syracuse.
Rice went 1-9 from the field, scoring two points to go with his four rebounds and three steals. There were some flashes for Rice but overall, it was a rusty debut for the freshman.
Of course, Rice’s quiet debut should come to the surprise of nobody considering the circumstances. He hasn’t played a true basketball game in months and is facing stiffer competition than he’s ever been used to.
It’s for this reason that Hokies fans should exercise patience with Rice and not overreact to his first game. Rice will come along and make strides with every game he plays and eventually this will lead to positive results on the court.
Virginia Tech will look to break their five-game skid next Wednesday when they face No. 13 Virginia in Charlottesville for the second Commonwealth Clash on the hardwood in 2023.