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Virginia Tech looks for turnaround vs. Syracuse

Dec 31, 2022; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies forward Justyn Mutts (25) dribbles around Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward Davion Bradford (20) during the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech’s hot start to the season is fading toward distant memory territory.

The skidding Hokies aim to snap a four-game losing streak Wednesday when they visit Syracuse in Atlantic Coast Conference action.

Virginia Tech (11-5, 1-4 ACC) opened the campaign 11-1, highlighted by wins over North Carolina, Minnesota and Oklahoma State. However, the team since has dropped close games against Boston College, Wake Forest, Clemson and North Carolina State. The four defeats by a total of 14 points have the sagging Hokies hoping for a stronger showing late in games.

There’s good news for Virginia Tech.

Freshman Rodney Rice, a former Top 75 recruit, is expected to make his college debut against Syracuse. He has been recovering from ankle surgery.

“We’ll throw him to the fire at around the 16-minute mark, 15-minute mark and let him get his feet wet. And how does that go?” coach Mike Young said of Rice. “He’s a very good player and one that would be a real shot in the arm for us as we head into our next five in the league.”

Rice should add offensive firepower alongside Sean Pedulla (17.3 points), Grant Basile (13.2) and Justyn Mutts (13.1).

Syracuse (10-6, 3-2) had won seven of eight before falling to Virginia 73-66 on Saturday.

The backcourt of Joe Girard III and Judah Mintz combined for 37 points, but it wasn’t enough as Syracuse received a total of 12 from for its other three starters.

In particular, coach Jim Boeheim wants to see more production out of center Jesse Edwards, whom he referred to as a “mystery.” Edwards (13.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.9 blocks) has not scored more than 12 points in any of the past six games and registered a season-low four points against Virginia.

“He’s not playing the way he was earlier in the year,” Boeheim said. “He was a different player (then).”

Virginia Tech won last season’s meeting with Syracuse, 71-59, as Mutts registered the second triple-double in school history with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in Blacksburg, W.Va.

–Field Level Media