SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Normally a team that lives and dies beyond the arc, Syracuse showed it can play an inside game, too.
The Orange, in need of a quality win, beat a ranked team for the first time in a year, dominating No. 16 Virginia Tech 78-60 on Saturday.
#16 Hokies fall to Orange
Quincy Guerrier had 20 points, Marek Dolezaj added 18 and Alan Griffin had 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks for his fourth double-double of the season to lead Syracuse (9-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The win snapped a three-game winning streak for the Hokies (11-3, 5-2), who entered the game winners of seven of their last eight. Nahiem Alleyne led Virginia Tech with a season-tying-high 20 points. Tyrece Radford had 10. The Hokies leading scorer, Keve Aluma, had just two.
Sixty-four of Syracuse's points came in the lane or at the free throw line. The Orange took a season-low 13 3-point shots, making only four, but outscored the Hokies 46-24 inside the paint and hit 18 of 22 foul shots.
"We wanted to drive in on their center and make him play defense on Marek," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "When we got a mismatch, we got Quincy down in low. That's what we wanted to do there."
The strategy worked to perfection, as did Syracuse's execution on defense. The Orange held the Hokies to 20-of-61 shooting for the game and just 8 of 29 from 3, including 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.
"The defense was the difference," said Boeheim, whose team gave up 64 second-half points in an ugly loss at Pitt a week ago but has rallied with excellent defensive performances in its last two games. He singled out Griffin for his "phenomenal play" on the defensive end.
Syracuse has a daunting task, hitting the road for a Monday night contest at No. 13 Virginia, but the significance of a resume-building win wasn't lost on the Orange, who lost at Rutgers in early December when the Scarlet Knights were ranked No. 21.
"This was huge for us," Dolezaj said. "We needed to beat somebody good."
The Orange held a 40-34 lead at the half but took control in the final 20 minutes. Virginia Tech closed to 47-44 on a lay-in by David N'Guessan with 13:45 to go, then Syracuse outscored the Hokies 31-9 to build its biggest lead of the game at 78-53.
"Their zone was good today," said Virginia Tech coach Mike Young. "It bothered us, (but) we got the ball where we wanted. You've got to put the thing in the basket, there's no great secrets I don't care what kind of defense you're playing against, and we didn't do enough of that today."
"To be honest, I felt like we had great looks," Alleyne said. "We just weren't making shots today. That happens."