ATLANTA (AP) — Elijah Hughes was cooking early, Buddy Boeheim got hot late, and Syracuse shut down the ACC’s leading scorer all the way Saturday in a 97-63 victory at Georgia Tech that snapped a three-game losing streak for the Orange.
Hughes scored 26 of his career-high 33 points in the first half, Boeheim added 20 of his career-high 26 in the second half, and Syracuse (5-4, 1-1 ACC) had absolutely no problem with Tech’s unusual 1-3-1 zone defense while also limiting Tech sophomore guard Michael Devoe to seven points on 2-of-12 shooting. He entered the game leading the conference with a 23.8-point scoring average.
The 34-point loss is Georgia Tech’s largest at home since losing 85-48 to No. 2 Virginia on Jan. 17, 1981.
Syracuse got off to a fast start when, after Tech’s Moses Wright scored the game’s first points on a stick-back, the Orange went on a 23-5 run that included made 3-point shots on four on five possessions. Hughes made three and Boeheim another for a 23-7 lead with 13:53 left in the half. Tech never pulled closer than 14 points.
“That was pretty good. He just got in the zone,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Hughes, a fourth-year forward. “He’s had days like that in practice. He hasn’t really had a game like that this year. I thought he was going to keep making them all.”
Hughes did miss some shots; he finished 10-of-15, including 6-of-11 on 3-pointers and all seven of his free throw attempts.
The Orange bullied Tech (4-3, 1-1) from start to finish, going to the free throw line for 30 shots and making 25. They won the battle of the boards 40-30, and also made 14-of-33 3-point shots -- six each by Hughes and Boeheim. Tech made just 7-of-18 free throws and was consistently outhustled.
Syracuse also put the clamps on Devoe. He missed his first six shots before finally connecting for his first field goal with 16:49 left in the game. That pulled Georgia Tech to within 56-32.
The Jackets never threatened Syracuse as point guard Jose Alvarado missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle, and only Wright produced consistently for the Jackets as he scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Center James Banks III entered the game leading the ACC in blocked shots (4.67), fourth in rebounding (9.33) and averaging 11.8 points. On Saturday, he scored eight points, pulled just three rebounds and did not block a shot. Two of his six shots were blocked.
“We needed Moses to have about 25 and 15 .., ” said Tech head coach Josh Pastner. “Until we get our full complement, guys are really going to play to take Michael Devoe out. And due to some lack of shooting on the perimeter, we need to dominate (inside) ... but today was the first game we did not dominate the red zone.”
Syracuse led 48-28 at halftime with Hughes making 7-of-11 shots, including 5-of-9 3-pointers, and all seven of his free throws.
Buddy Boeheim scored the first eight points of the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Orange ran away to leads as big as 37 points twice. Syracuse shot 60% in the second half (15 of 25).
“We haven’t been good in our losses. We’ve played against teams that are really good, physical, tough man-to-man teams ..,” coach Boeheim said. “We really overloaded and got some good shots against their zone early.”
Syracuse: If this version of the Orange shows up over the rest of the ACC season, Syracuse may be an NCAA tournament team. Syracuse was especially efficient on offense, and looked nothing like the team that lost consecutive games by double digits to Oklahoma State, Penn State and Iowa before playing Georgia Tech. Other than their 17 turnovers, the Orange scored on 69.4 percent of their possessions (41-of-59). “When we shoot the ball well, we’re tough to stop,” Jim Boeheim said.
Georgia Tech: It’s a good thing the Yellow Jackets don’t play another conference game until Dec. 31 at Florida State because that is when Alvarado is expected to return. Without him, Tech struggles to move the ball effectively, and his energy is sorely missed at both ends of the court. “He is our best guy against the zone because of his feel against the zone and being able to get the ball to the middle,” Pastner said.
TOUGH, TESTY TIMES AT TECH
Georgia Tech typically does not play games while final exams are going on at the school, but with the ACC’s expansion to a 20-game league schedule, the conference scheduled this game. Finals began Thursday and continue through mid-week. “We all were just low on energy. I don’t know what it was, but we’re going to bounce back most definitely,” Wright said. “Like I said, no excuses for the way we played.”
Syracuse: Will play at Georgetown next Saturday.
Georgia Tech: Will play at Kentucky next Saturday.
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