SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Things looked bleak for Syracuse entering Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.
Losers of three straight, the Orange displayed little energy in the first half, shooting just 7 of 26, and trailed by 11 at the break, 38-27.
A deep 3 and short jumper by freshman Joe Girard to open the second half gave Syracuse (15-12, 8-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) the spark it needed and the Orange outscored Georgia Tech (13-14, 7-9) 52-34 in the final 20 minutes en route to a 79-72 win.
“I’ve got to give them credit the way they played the second half. They made some tough shots,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. “I thought the whole game came down to Girard hitting that deep 3 to start the second half and then he hit another bucket.
That just changed the momentum because we were up by 11 and I thought we ready to bury them.”
After shooting 27 percent in the first half, the Orange heated up and hit 16 of 25 for 64 % after intermission.
“You know it’s going to be hard to come back from 11 but we did, ultimately,” said Girard, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. “I was just out there trying to make plays, got an open look and shot it. It went in, thankfully.
We knew the first few minutes of the second half were going to be crucial and in the beginning we got it rolling. From there, we controlled the whole second half.”
Elijah Hughes and Marek Dolezaj each scored 20 to lead Syracuse. Buddy Boeheim added 13 and Bourama Sidibe had 10 rebounds, three steals and six points, including a crucial put-back, before fouling out.
Dolezaj scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, including 14 in the last seven minutes. He hit six consecutive foul shots to help seal the win.
Moses Wright had a career-high 33 points on 14 of 17 inside-the-paint shooting and added 10 rebounds. Michael Devoe added 11 points. The loss snapped Georgia Tech’s modest two-game winning streak.
“They (Syracuse) didn’t have the same energy in the second half, and it caused us to have turnovers” Wright said. “And it caused Syracuse to have more energy on the offensive end. That shot (Girard) seemed to give them a little bit more confidence.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, not given to lavish praise, was proud of his team’s comeback.
“At halftime, this was a very hard game to win. After you lose three in a row it’s even harder. They just went out there and ignored what happened and just played, and it’s a tremendous tribute to those five guys.
This is one of the best second halves we ever played. Anywhere. This was a tremendous win.”
Boeheim also paid tribute to Sidibe, who has struggled mightily this season. His put-back gave Syracuse a 58-55 lead with 6:27 to go. “This is what Bourama can do. He can do what he did today. It may not look like much but he can do that on a consistent basis. He makes us different when he can do those things.”
“Bourama played great in the second half,” Dolezaj said. “That’s what we need from him every single night.”
Sparked by eight points from Girard, Syracuse went on a 12-2 run to start the second half, closing to 40-39 on a jumper by Boeheim with 15:49 left. Dolezaj’s jumper off glass made it 51-49 Georgia Tech with 10:31 to go.
Hughes hit 1 of 2 free throws, giving Syracuse a 52-51 margin with 9:15 left in regulation for its first lead since 4-2. A lay-in by Girard extended Syracuse’s margin to three and Syracuse took its largest lead of the half up to that point, 68-62, on a lay-in by Dolezaj with 4:53 left.
Two foul shots by Hughes gave Syracuse its largest lead, 72-62 with 1:22 to go.
Wright dominated inside in the first half, scoring 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, all from inside the paint. In the half, the Yellow Jackets hit 13 of 27 and 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech outscored the Orange 18-8 in the paint and held a 38-27 lead at the break. The Orange missed 10 straight field goal attempts and 1 of 14 during one stretch.
Yellow Jackets center James Banks III fouled out with more than six minutes to go, which robbed the team of an inside presence that could have changed things at the end.
NO SPREE FROM 3
Syracuse, which relies on 3-point shooting, continues to struggle from beyond the arc. The Orange shot just 5 of 14.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets let this game slip away and begins a three-game home stand to salvage its season.
Syracuse: The Orange showed a lot of heart in its comeback. Playing for nothing much more than pride, Syracuse played with energy and purpose in the second half. The Orange must win the ACC Tournament to gain an NCAA post-season bid.
Georgia Tech begins a three-game home stand Tuesday against Clemson.
Syracuse goes on the road Wednesday for a matchup against long-time former Big East rival Pittsburgh.
For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25