NEW YORK -- Syracuse showed its depth and its ability to take over a game by getting out in transition.
The fifth-ranked Orange shook off a slow first half and was able to pull away for a 69-58 victory against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
"We still have a long way to go and we can become a better team but we're not there for sure," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "It's going to take some time. We do have the potential but as we saw tonight we have a lot to do."
Kris Joseph had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Triche added 18 points for the Orange (5-0), who will play Stanford in the championship game Friday night. The Cardinal beat Oklahoma State 82-67 in the semifinals.
Reserves C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters combined for 21 points in the second half -- 19 more than they had in the opening 20 minutes -- to lead Syracuse's rally.
"When guys, the veteran guys, aren't doing exactly what they're supposed to, [Waiters] comes in and provides a great spark for us and he brings the atmosphere and the crowd got into it," Triche said.
Virginia Tech (3-1) controlled the pace of the game in the first half, leading 29-27 after milking the 35-second shot clock on many possessions against Syracuse's famed 2-3 zone defense.
With Fair, who finished with 12 and nine rebounds, and Waiters, who had 11 points, bringing energy off the bench, the Orange looked more like themselves as they started running the court and dominating inside. Syracuse finished with a 36-16 advantage in the paint and scored 42 points in the second half, finally finding the tempo that had helped the Orange average 90 points entering the game.
|NIT Season Tip-Off|
"I thought Virginia Tech did a great job against our defense, moving the ball and getting it to the right guy," Boeheim said. "Our problem was on offense, we just didn't get anything going. Kris helped us in the first half and then Dion got going and I thought C.J. Fair was really good in the second half."
Jarrell Eddie had 17 points for the Hokies, while Erick Green added 14 and Dorenzo Hudson 13.
Waiters and Fair had all but three of the points in a 17-3 run that gave Syracuse a 56-45 lead with 8:15 to play. Fair's dunk on a feed from Waiters gave the Orange their first lead of the game, 44-42, with 12:10 to play.
Virginia Tech used an 8-2 run to get to 56-53 but Fair and Waiters both scored and Triche scored the next five points to put the Orange back in control.
"I thought we played really competitive basketball except for that one little four-, five-minute stretch," Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said. "We competed as we as we needed to offensively and then we got soft defensively. We shot ourselves in the foot. The turnovers were brutal.
"You play games like these to see where you are and where they are is where we're trying to get to. I saw a lot of positive things."
The Orange were again without longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine, who is on administrative leave while charges of sexual abuse against him are under investigation.
The players said they approached this trip just as they have all the others to New York City.
"I think we're always comfortable here," Triche said. "We're doing some of the same things. We're not changing any formats. We are trying to make it as normal as possible."
With Syracuse having announced it is leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, this will be a conference matchup in the future.