Blacksburg, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - After surviving a scare in their first Atlantic Coast Conference game, the second-ranked Syracuse Orange head out on the road to tangle with the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cassell Coliseum on Tuesday night.
After trailing for much of the game, Syracuse finally found a way to pull away for a 49-44 win over Miami-Florida on Saturday. The victory was not the resounding effort expected of the former Big East stalwarts, but the Orange are still undefeated (14-0), although they have just one true road test under their belt. Syracuse returns home this Saturday to take on North Carolina.
Coincidentally, Virginia Tech's first league game also came against Miami, which the Hokies defeated in overtime, 61-60, back on Dec. 8. Tech has battled four non-conference foes since, with the most recent matchup ending in an 82-66 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore. The victory put the brakes on a two- game slide for the Hokies, who are 8-5 overall and will host Boston College next in the fourth leg of a five-game homestand.
There have only been six previous encouters between these two teams, and Syracuse has won the last four, including a 69-58 verdict in 2011.
The Orange trailed, 40-35, with 6:11 to play against Miami. From there however, they used a 8-0 run to reclaim the lead, which they would never surrender. The major difference in the game was at the free-throw line, where Syracuse enjoyed a 12-3 scoring advantage.
Underscoring how well the Orange played on defense in the win would be a mistake. They held Miami to just 42.5 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers, while committing only seven miscues of their own. Jim Boeheim's famous zone defense has been as effective as ever this season, with Syracuse ranked 13th nationally in points allowed (59.8 pg). C.J. Fair (17.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is the top scoring option, using his length to get to the hoop and his range to knock down shots from all over the floor. Trevor Cooney (14.1 ppg) is a more one-dimensional scorer, relying on efforts from beyond the arc. Jerami Grant (12.3 ppg) provides a spark off the bench, and Tyler Ennis (11.6 ppg, 5.5 apg) runs the point.
Virginia Tech led by as many as 27 points in its recent win over Maryland- Eastern Shore. The Hokies connected on 46.4 percent of their field goal attempts, and had 18 assists against only eight turnovers in the contest. They also claimed a commanding 42-26 advantage on the boards.
Leading scorer Jarell Eddie (17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) finished with 17 points and came up a rebound shy of a double-double in the win. It was a nice bounce-back effort for Eddie, who had a season-low four points in the previous outing -- a 55-52 loss to UNC Greensboro. Adam Smith (13.1 ppg) and Ben Emelogu (12.2 ppg) are the only other players on the roster averaging in double figures. However, Devin Wilson (7.4 ppg, 5.2 apg), who is fourth in the ACC in assists, showed that he can be relied on against UMES, joining Eddie as the only other player in double figures with 16 points.