SYRACUSE — Less than a week before celebrating the program’s pinnacle achievement, the Syracuse University men’s basketball team hit rock bottom Tuesday night in the JMA Wireless Dome.
The Orange defense again looked lifeless en route to its fourth straight loss, surrendering 18 total 3-pointers during a 96-76 Atlantic Coast Conference loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with 18,522 fans in attendance, many expressing their displeasure with boos throughout the second half.
Syracuse (16-14 overall, 9-10 ACC) will next host Wake Forest at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Dome. The regular-season finale will feature a 20-year anniversary celebration of the 2003 national championship team with Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick set to have their respective jerseys retired.
The Orange was already coming off a stretch of three straight losses by 17 points or more for the first time in 61 years.
“Our defense has progressively gotten worse,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said afterward. “We tried to go to the press, that was a mistake, we just gave up some open shots there and I should know better. We can’t stop anybody, and that’s the bottom line.”
He continued: “We just have not been able to stop anybody for four games in a row, and that’s on me, it’s my defense and we’re not able to stop anybody. So, that’s where we are.”
Judah Mintz delivered 23 points and seven assists, Jesse Edwards added 18 points and eight rebounds, while Joe Girard III and Benny Williams scored 11 points apiece for SU.
Miles Kelly scored 30 points and Lance Terry added 24 for Georgia Tech (13-17, 5-14), connecting on seven apiece from deep to pace the team record for most 3-pointers in a single game.
The Yellow Jackets finished 18-for-40 from behind 3-point arc to claim their first ACC road win of the season. They led by as much as 28 for their largest advantage and highest scoring output against an ACC team all season.
Syracuse moved from its 2-3 zone into man-to-man defense for the first time since November about six minutes into the second half but facing a 23-point deficit at the time, the switch made little impact.
Syracuse also pressed for portions of the first half but was unable to slow down Georgia Tech, which topped its previous record 3-point mark of 17 set in 2001 against Clemson.
Syracuse has allowed 13 or more 3-pointers in all four consecutive setbacks and has permitted a combined 61 makes from deep during the losing streak.
“There was one point we were playing really good defense, getting stops and getting out to shooters, a point in the season where were really good in it,” Girard said. “We just have to try to find that and try to get back to it and get back to where we were.”
The Yellow Jackets came out firing from the onset and made 10 of 22 from deep in the first half, led by Kelly, who made five 3-pointers for 17 points before halftime.
Georgia Tech took a 53-44 edge into halftime and shot 57 percent for its highest scoring half against an ACC team this year.
Deebo Coleman hit a 3-pointer on Georgia Tech’s first possession of the second half to kickstart another shooting surge and an 11-0 run after the intermission, pushing the advantage to 64-44. Boeheim then called his last timeout less than two minutes into the second half.
“You can just look at the scoreboard and see that we’re giving up more points, if I knew, I’d solve it, but I can’t tell you right now,” Edwards said. “We have to keep grinding and looking and trying to find out what that is and get something out of these last games.”
Boston College beat Wake Forest, 71-69, on Tuesday to move into a tie with SU for ninth place in the conference standings.
The Orange holds the tiebreaker with the season sweep of the Eagles and could have secured a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament with a win or B.C. loss.
“The reality is we’re not going anywhere unless we win the (ACC) tournament, which is obviously unlikely with the way that we’re playing,” Boeheim said. “This game, as much as you want to win it, doesn’t change anything, we have to go there and win to get into the tournament, but obviously you don’t want to play that badly.”
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