ATLANTA — Josh Okogie and his Georgia Tech teammates had fits with Syracuse’s zone defense Wednesday, but the Yellow Jackets were even tougher on the Orange in snapping a four-game losing streak with a 55-51 win.
The sophomore guard scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half on a night when Tech (11-11, 4-5 ACC) used just six players with Tadric Jackson adding 15 points as the only sub. He made 7-of-12 shots, but his teammates hit just 14 of 51 and Tech shot 33.3 percent.
Syracuse (15-7, 4-5) never led while losing for the first time in four games.
Guard Tyus Battle scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Frank Howard added 11 points, but they each made just 4-of-17 shots. The Orange made 15 of 50 (30 percent) against Tech’s 1-3-1 zone.
“Today we guarded in the way that we should be guarding if we want to continue to move up the ladder. …” said Tech head coach Josh Pastner. “Maybe there were some issues offensively for both teams, but it was a hard-fought, competitive, high-level basketball game.”
The Yellow Jackets led 24-21 at halftime, and got an all-around effort from senior center Ben Lammers. He finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
Working chiefly out of the high post, four times in the second half he slipped passes to Jackson as the 6-foot-2 guard cut behind Orange defenders along the baseline for easy scores.
“I think Tadric did a great job of staying behind the defense, kind of sneaking up. …” Okogie said. “Tadric did a great job of finishing around the basket.”
Tech took a 44-37 lead on Jackson’s layup with 6:56 left. His final points gave the senior guard 1,001 in his career.
Syracuse pulled within 51-48 on Battle’s eighth and ninth free throws with 1:37 remaining, but Lammers soon scored off an offensive rebound. Then, Alvarado quickly stole the ball from Syracuse’s Paschal Chukwu and passed to Okogie for a dunk.
Syracuse has scored fewer points just once, a 51-49 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 6.
“Our offense is terrible,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “It’s been terrible all year.”
Both teams made 5-of-18 3-pointers, and Syracuse doubled Tech at the free throw line, making 16 of 20 to the Jackets’ 8 of 12. But Tech took 13 more shots, helped by nine steals. Okogie and Alvarado had four each, and the Jackets outscored Syracuse 14-4 off turnovers. Tech turned the ball over nine times to 15 for the Orange.
Syracuse: The Orangemen had just seven scholarship players, and one was a surprise. Forward Matthew Moyer, who started the first 20 games before missing Saturday’s win over Pitt because of left ankle sprain, was expected to miss Wednesday’s game but played two minutes off the bench. Guard Howard Washington suffered a leg injury in practice Monday, and Boeheim said that he is out for the season.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets lost freshman guard Curtis Haywood II Wednesday, when he was shut down for the season because of a stress reaction in his right leg. He played in 15 games, starting seven, before missing six consecutive contests in December and January with a shin injury.
NOT MUCH ROOM TO ROAM
Syracuse scored just 10 points in the paint shooting 5 of 22. In addition to Lammers’ two blocked shots, 6-foot-9 Tech forward Abdoulaye Gueye swatted five. “They made it tough to get anything because they were clogging it up so much,” Battle said.
Syracuse returns home to play No. 2 Virginia Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers beat the Orange 68-61 Jan. 9 in Charlottesville.
Georgia Tech will go on the road for consecutive ACC games, Sunday at Boston College and Thursday at No. 4 Duke.