For their final road game of the regular season, the Tech men’s basketball team travelled to Syracuse, N.Y. and beat the No. 7 ranked Syracuse Orangemen 67-62.
Syracuse, who is two weeks removed from being 25-0 and the No. 1 team in the country, was favored by nearly 16 points in this game against the Jackets. The Jackets came into the game on a four game losing streak but came out on top and shocked the college basketball world. Syracuse was also entering the game on losing streak. They had just recently suffered a 19 point loss at the University of Virginia, which took them out of contention for an ACC regular season title.
Syracuse was celebrating their senior night where they honored four seniors, including star forward C.J. Fair. It had been 12 years since a Syracuse loss to an unranked team on senior night.
“Never a dull moment with this group,” said Tech head coach Brian Gregory. “I’m just so happy for them. Our guys have been through a lot and to get this win and [trying] to build some momentum headed into the tournament is very important. I’m just so proud of our guys. There’s been a lot of challenges this year and our guys have never lost hope, never lost their resolve and you just got to give them a lot of credit.”
Tech came into the game the healthiest they have been in over two months as both Trae Golden and Robert Carter Jr. seemed to be fully recovered from their injuries.
The game’s first points were scored by forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who received a deep outlet pass from freshman Corey Heward and laid it in on a fast break. However, things seemed bleak for Tech when Georges-Hunt, Tech’s second leading scorer, picked up his second foul with 16 minutes left in the first half. Syracuse scored four points in three seconds to take a 9-6 lead five minutes into the game, but it would be the only lead they would have the rest of the game.
Syracuse is known for their 2-3 zone that future hall of fame head coach Jim Boeheim has been running there for over 30 years. Tech was able to break their full court pressure and beat the zone by the great passing and movement without the ball by seniors Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey and Golden.
Miller finished the game with 16 points on 7-10 shooting, six rebounds, six blocks, four assists and two steals. Tech played to their pace throughout the first half and controlled the tempo most of the game.
Patience and great ball movement helped the Jackets get the easy open look and it was the most comfortable Tech had look on offense all year.
Sophomore guard Chris Bolden swished a three pointer to give Tech a 16-11 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. On a desperation heave from Carter, Stephens swished a three to give Tech a 21-14 lead. Coach Boeheim called a timeout following the shot and, at that point of the game, Syracuse knew they were in for a battle if Tech was making those tough shots.
Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis scored nine straight points trying to keep the game close, but Tech kept responding at the other end. At the end of the half, Kammeon Holsey converted a tough and-one to put Tech up 31-23 at the break.
In the second half, Syracuse cut the lead to four early in the half, but Tech did not panic and continued to execute their game plan of making smart passes in their half-court offense to set up high percentage shots. Syracuse decided to go to a full court press, but Heyward and Golden refused to turn the ball over.
With 15 minutes remaining, Golden hit his second three of the night to put Tech up 42-33. They later stretched their lead to double digits when Kammeon Holsey made two free throws with 14 minutes left. Tech continued to hold their double digit lead and coming out of a timeout, Carter threw an alley-oop to Miller to give Tech a 50-38 lead with nine minutes remaining.
The game began to get much closer towards the end of the game as Tech started to be careless with the ball, missing four free throws in a row on one and one opportunities.
C.J. Fair started to knock down three pointers as he was trying to forcefully will a comeback by himself and ended up finishing his senior night with a career high 28 points.
After Syracuse cut the lead to 61-59, Tech got the ball to Golden and he made six free throws in the final 35 seconds to seal the win for Tech. Golden finished the game with 16 points and, most importantly, turnovers.
It was the second straight year coach Gregory has led his team to beat a top ten ranked opponent. Tech moves to 14-16 (5-11 ACC) and will be having senior night March 8 against the Virginia Tech Hokies.