As was the most likely expected outcome, Syracuse’s limited offense simply did not have enough to be successful against Virginia, far and away the best defensive team in the nation. A couple long scoring droughts, one in each half of play, sentenced the Orange (15-8, 4-6 ACC) to a 59-44 home loss to the Cavaliers (22-1, 11-0).
SU made just one-third of their field goal attempts in the game, while the Cavs’ methodical offense made just under one-half of their attempts from the floor. Virginia’s ball movement was key, as they piled up 19 assists on their 23 field goals.
The only significant advantage Syracuse had in the box score was a 14-2 edge in points off turnovers. The Orange forced 11 miscues by Virginia in the game.
The two squads alternated scores for the first several minutes with Virginia getting the advantage solely by making a three instead of a regular basket, but Oshae Brissett converted a kickout pass from Marek Dolezaj into a straightaway three for SU to knot the score at 11 a side with a little over eight minutes off the clock.
After another trade of baskets, the Cavaliers got the better of play for the last ten minutes of the half. Virginia got consecutive scores, including a triple, to get some breathing room, then closed a dominant eight-minute span with 11 straight points for a 31-18 lead.
Brissett finally stopped the Cavs run and an Orange scoring drought of just over six minutes with a three. That trey was the last tally of the half for either side, sending Syracuse to their locker room staring down a 31-21 deficit.
Dolezaj opened the second half with a slam dunk to fire up the Dome crowd, but Virginia answered with a couple scores. Dolezaj made a short push shot in the paint, then a steal led to a Frank Howard run out for a dunk to draw SU within 36-27.
And then, Virginia took over. The Cavaliers scored the next dozen points of the game, holding SU without a point for nearly six-and-a-half minutes and building a 48-27 lead with just over nine minutes to play.
Howard finally broke the run with a pair of foul shots and Battle converted a three-point play to draw Syracuse back within 16. SU kept up the run, getting successful drives from both Battle and Howard, then a right wing three from the former that spun around the rim and dropped through. That triple made it a 12-4 Orange run that brought them back within 52-39 with just over five minutes to play.
The Orange would actually get within 11 on a Brissett lay-up that dropped through with under three minutes to go, but the Cavs responded with a pair of dunks that snuffed out any hopes of a miracle finish.
Tyus Battle led SU with 15 points on the day. Frank Howard’s shooting slump continued, as he made only 4-of-17 from the field and 1-of-9 from deep as he scored 11 points. Oshae Brissett and Marek Dolezaj each had nine points.
De’Andre Hunter had 15 points to pace Virginia while Kyle Guy hit four three-pointers for the majority of his 14 points. Mamadi Diakite was the third Cavalier to reach double figures, finishing with a dozen.
The Orange face a quick turnaround, as they hit the road for a matchup at Louisville on Monday night. The Cardinals (16-7, 6-4) have dropped three of their last four games after falling to Florida State on Saturday afternoon.
Deng Adel is the top scorer for Louisville, averaging 15.7 points per contest. Quentin Snider (12.9 pts/game) and Ray Spalding (11.3 pts/game, team-high 9.2 reb/game) are the other two Cardinals averaging double figures in scoring.
Tip-off for SU and the Cards will be at 7:00pm Eastern. ESPN will handle the television duties, which will also be available on ESPN3.com.