BLACKSBURG, Va. – One day after saying he could be without three of his main players when Virginia Tech played No. 2 Syracuse, Hokies coach James Johnson got good news when all three became available.
Adam Smith returned after missing two games and three of the last five with a strained left calf, and C.J. Barksdale and Marshall Wood both played a day after Johnson said he thought they were questionable with flu symptoms.
He could have used a few more players.
With leading scorer Jarell Eddie making an early 3-pointer and then scoring just three more points the rest of the way, the Hokies hung tough for a while before a 16-0 burst in the second half carried the Orange to a 72-52 victory.
Eddie, who averages 17.4 points, said the Orange's famed 2-3 zone was "no joke."
"It's extremely difficult just because they're so long and so active in it," the senior said after missing seven of nine shots. "They take up so much space on the floor that it's hard to find shots. When you do find a shot, they're able to recover with that length."
The Hokies came into the game among the leaders nationally making 42.5 percent of their 3-point shots, but managed to make just 7 of 24 against the Orange.
"You work on the zone but you can't work against the length and the athleticism," Johnson said. "They did a much better job than we thought of getting out to our shooters."
Eddie said the Hokies (8-6, 1-1) have to forget and move on. They host Boston College on Saturday.
"Now that we're in ACC play, we've got to have a short-term memory and try to get to the next game as quick as we can. Learn from this game, but get to the next game as quick as we can," he said.
For Syracuse, C.J. Fair scored 17 points and the 16-0 run allowed them to pull away.
Tyler Ennis added 13 points, Jerami Grant had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Trevor Cooley scored 11 points as the Orange (15-0, 2-0) made their first visit to Cassell Coliseum since Jan. 30, 1978.
C.J. Barksdale led Virginia Tech (8-6, 1-1) with 12 points and Ben Emelogu and Smith had nine each. The Hokies were outrebounded 41-25 and shot 36.7 percent (18 of 49) to the Orange's 46.7 percent (28 of 60)
Syracuse went on its run just after five straight points by the Hokies pulled them within 44-40, giving a sparse crowd on a frigid evening hope that Virginia Tech might have something big in store.
But Ennis hit a 3-pointer to spark the surge, and the Hokies went scoreless for 8 1-2 minutes. Grant and Fair scored four points each in the run and Ennis added another 3. When Joey van Zegeren finally ended the drought with a putback dunk with 6:16 to play, the Orange lead was 60-42 and the suspense was over.
The Orange used a 22-7 to open a 27-15 lead. Cooney and Michael Gbinije hit 3-pointers in the run, and Fair made two jumpers. The Hokies outscored Syracuse 14-8 the rest of the half.
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