Syracuse men’s basketball opponent preview: What to know about Virginia Tech
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Syracuse (10-6, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) is looking to pick up its third straight ACC win on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at No. 21 Virginia Tech (12-3, 1-2). The Orange has won its last two games handily by a combined 26 points over two legitimate opponents in Miami and Pittsburgh. Now, SU hits the road in search of its first win outside of the Carrier Dome this season.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Syracuse’s matchup with the Hokies.
All-time series: 8-2, Syracuse leads
Last time they played: The Orange trailed by seven with just under two and a half minutes in regulation when the two teams squared off in their only matchup last season on Feb. 2, 2016. SU came thundering back to force overtime and eventually win, 68-60. Down the stretch of the second half, Syracuse forced three missed shot attempts while converting on two crucial 3-pointers by Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije. The Orange outscored VT 12-4 in overtime as Gbinije (17 points), Richardson (13 points) and Tyler Roberson (12 points, 15 rebounds) led the way.
“Really that’s as good of a comeback as you’re going to see,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said.
Virginia Tech report: The Hokies enter the matchup against Syracuse on a season-worst two-game losing streak. After opening ACC play with an attention-grabbing 89-75 upset of Duke, they lost to North Carolina State and Florida State in the past week by a combined 41 points. However, both those games were on the road and Virginia Tech has yet to lose at Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech doesn’t pop out statistically, but head coach Buzz Williams’ squad is well-rounded. Five players average more than 10 points and averages 83.3 points per game. Still, that ranks only fifth in the ACC in scoring offense. The Hokies’ effective field-goal percentage of 56.2 ranks 17th nationally, per Kenpom.com. Leading scorers Zach LeDay (16.3) and Ahmed Hill (15.3) combine to average 31.6 points, but SU needs to be concerned with VT’s team offense as a whole.
How Syracuse beats Virginia Tech: The most impressive part about Syracuse’s past two games — two solid ACC wins — has been its defensive turnaround. The Orange had given up more than 90 points in two of its three games prior to beating Miami and Pittsburgh. SU must continue stepping up on the defensive end in order to beat the Hokies, who can lean on an array of players to score. Against Pitt, Syracuse closed off the high post and entry passes to Jamel Artis. Against Miami, the Orange packed in its defense and forced the Hurricanes to go 10-of-28 from inside the arc while holding all but one player to single-digit point totals. The Hokies present a different challenge without having any elite scorers, but a variety to go to.
Stat to know: 5 — Virginia Tech is one of just three schools in the ACC with five players averaging double-digit points per game.
Player to watch: Zach LeDay, forward, No. 32
LeDay averages 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting 55.2 percent on 2-point field goals. While the Hokies have other players who can beat Syracuse’s defense, Virginia Tech feeds LeDay often. He’s only scored in single digits once, and that was an eight-point performance against Texas A&M in VT’s first loss of the year. He draws 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranks 86th in the country per Kenpom, and if he’s effective doing that again, the Orange may be forced to play more than just five players for a majority of the game just as it has in its past two wins.
Published on January 9, 2017 at 10:53 am