SYRACUSE — In its Atlantic Coast Conference opener, Syracuse University’s leading offensive trio was too powerful for Virginia Tech, and the Orange excelled on both ends in a 68-56 win Sunday night in the Carrier Dome.
Oshae Brissett was regularly bulldozing into the lane, finishing with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds for Syracuse (12-2, 1-0 ACC). The 6-foot-8, 210-pound freshman was 9-of-10 from the free- throw line in addition to 5-of-7 shooting from inside the arc. Syracuse outscored Virginia Tech (11-3, 0-1) by 14 points in the paint, owning a 20-10 edge in the second half.
“You can see it in the moves he’s making, he’s understanding the spots he can get his baskets from,” Syracuse point guard Frank Howard said. “He’s attacking the boards. He’s going to be scary as he continues to grow.”
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams suggested Brissett might one day join the pantheon of great Syracuse players, including a somewhat veiled reference to perennial NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony.
“(Brissett’s) efficiency is very good,” Williams said. “He has size (for his position). … Normally, the freshmen that play the minutes at the rate that he’s playing at Syracuse have really good (college and professional) careers.”
Tyus Battle and Howard made challenging shots all night, each scoring 17 points and combining for seven assists. Syracuse shot 48.9 percent from the field and 85 percent from the free-throw line (17 of 20).
“We attacked the basket,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “Frank made some really good plays. In the first half he made three big 3s to get us some separation. In the second half, Tyus got to the basket.”
Rebounding between the teams was even at the break, but Syracuse dominated the glass down the stretch to lead Virginia Tech, 39-26, by the end of the night. Matthew Moyer topped the Orange with 13 boards, including four offensive rebounds, and scored 11 points for a double-double.
Syracuse was hampered by foul trouble early on, stuck playing a short rotation of six players. Paschal Chukwu was one of four Orange players with two fouls at halftime. But activity forced the Hokies into nine turnovers and 26.1-percent shooting in the opening frame.
“I don’t think they’ve seen a defense like ours all year,” Battle said.
Playing center for Chukwu, Marek Dolezaj leapt into a steal that led to a transition 3-pointer for Battle to put the Orange ahead, 27-16. Syracuse led 32-19 at halftime.
Syracuse went flat for a stretch after intermission after Chukwu dropped a dunk that could have put the Orange up 17. Instead, the Hokies became inspired and hit four 3-pointers in a four-minute span to slash the deficit to 34-31. Virginia Tech entered the game averaging 91 points per game behind 43.7 percent shooting from deep, and the Hokies went on to make 10 3-pointers on the night despite the slow start.
“We knew they were going to make a run like that,” Battle said. “They’re a good team. That’s how it goes. They can shoot.”
During the Hokies’ 12-0 run, Howard was called for a flagrant foul and technical foul for pushing Justin Bibbs from behind on a loose ball. Bibbs missed both free throws as part of a 10-of-18 night (55.6 percent) for Virginia Tech.
Moments later, Brissett and Justin Robinson were each called for technicals after exchanging words during a stoppage in play. Brissett appeared to take offense to a foul by the smaller Robinson, and Brissett hit his free throws to put the Orange up, 38-31.
On the ensuing possession for Syracuse, Howard put Robinson on his back, and the 6-5 point guard hit a turnaround jumper. Next, Battle rejected a screen by Chukwu and drove into the lane, dumping off to Moyer for a dunk that got a rise out of the crowd.
On Virginia Tech’s third missed 3-pointer in a row, Syracuse got out in transition, and Battle calmly sank an open 3 to push the Orange lead to 45-31. Syracuse’s lead never fell below double-digits the rest of the way.
“I don’t know, I don’t think people want to talk trash (to our team),” Howard said.
Bourama Sidibe was held out of his third straight game with knee soreness.
Syracuse travels to Wake Forest on Wednesday for its first road game in ACC play.