Men's Baksetball

FRESH START: Ennis leads big 2nd-half run as Syracuse beats Virginia Tech in 1st ACC road game

Courtesy of Syracuse Media Group

Tyler Ennis elevates for a layup in Syracuse's 72-52 win against Virginia Tech. Ennis finished with 13 points and seven assists, keying the Orange's 16-0 second-half run.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Amid the chaos that had suddenly erupted inside Cassell Coliseum, Tyler Ennis never panicked. As Virginia Tech cut the lead to four with 14:44 remaining in the second half, the 4,367 that surrounded the court grew louder.

For the first time, the momentum had swung in the Hokies’ favor.

But they did it again. They left a shooter open on the perimeter and he made them pay. Ennis pulled up and drained a 3 to silence the run and the surprisingly loud, half-filled stadium.

“I noticed they were leaving me open a little bit more than usual. I just took my open shots and made a couple,” the guard said. “When they give them to me, I’m going to take them.”

The 3 propelled No. 2 Syracuse to a 16-0 run and a 72-52 win against the Hokies (8-6, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) in the Orange’s (15-0, 2-0) first ACC road trip to Blacksburg, Va. Ennis finished with 13 points and seven assists and made his most 3-pointers since November.

VT had committed to letting SU win from the perimeter, clogging up lanes and turning the game into a shooting contest. The Hokies entered Tuesday as the conference’s best 3-point-shooting team at 42.5 percent, while Syracuse was shooting just 35.5 percent. The Orange had to stretch its defense out. The Hokies packed it in.

“We got some open looks from the 3 and Mike (Gbinije) and Tyler knocked them down and just changed the game,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We didn’t make those shots in our last game. We had those opportunities, just didn’t make them. It makes us a better team offensively when they knock those shots down.”

Trevor Cooney had played his worst game of the season just three days earlier against Miami (Fla.), but matched the number of 3-pointers he made against the Hurricanes in a matter of minutes on Tuesday.

SU had control, but a barrage of 3s from an injured guard let VT hang around. Adam Smith, who was listed as questionable with a calf injury, drilled three 3-pointers in the first half, including one from several feet behind the arc to cut the lead to six at the half.

An 11-5 mini-Virginia Tech run early in the second half ignited the Hokies’ crowd, but Ennis quickly put an end to that. Two minutes after his pull-up 3, he zipped a cross-court pass to C.J. Fair for a transition dunk to push Syracuse’s lead to double digits.

“Coming out for the second half (Boeheim) said he was going to come to me,” Fair said. “They couldn’t really guard me.”

Fair had just five points in the first half, but rebounded to finish with a game-high 17. As the Orange built its lead, it consistently looked for its star. He scored half of his second-half points during SU’s game-changing run. He got to the rim, but he also came around screens to knock down a pair of his patented baseline jumpers.

On the other end of the floor, the defense swarmed. VT went almost eight minutes without scoring and when it finally ended its drought with 6:19 remaining, it trailed by 20 points.

“We were very good on the perimeter in the second half,” Boeheim said. “Baye (Moussa Keita) did a better job inside during that period and we finally got our offense going a little bit, as well.

“When you’re playing good offense — I think probably it shouldn’t — but it probably helps your defense a little bit, as well.”

When the offense was rolling on Tuesday, it often came in the form of jump shots. Gbinije scored eight points off the bench and got going with a 3 from the right wing. Jerami Grant hit a jumper early in the game and even Tyler Roberson sunk a catch-and-shoot basket.

But the two buckets that opened and punctuated Syracuse’s run came with two flicks of Ennis’ wrist.

The first pull-up was uncharacteristic, but when he set up on the right wing with a 15-point lead, the shot he made earlier in the night was no longer a surprise, but part of his repertoire.

He drilled another pull-up 3. The lead ballooned to 18, and Virginia Tech couldn’t spring an upset on the No. 2 team in the nation.

“It’s better when we’re making shots because everything opens up,” Ennis said. “If they’re going to give us the shot, the 3, that’s going to open things up.”

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