With the game tied and 11:20 to play, #12 Virginia delivered a knockout punch in the form of a 20-5 run, sending #4 Syracuse to their third loss in four games on Saturday, this one coming on the road by a 75-56 margin. The victory also clinched the regular season ACC title for the Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Had the Orange (26-3, 13-3) won, they would have controlled their destiny in the quest for the championship and top seed in the conference tournament. Now, they sit in second place, a game up on both Duke and North Carolina.
Virginia put together a strong offensive game, connecting on half their shots on the day and tallying 19 assists on their 27 field goals. The Cavaliers shot just under 58 percent from the floor in the second half, including 7-of-11 three point tries.
SU, on the other hand, shot 40 percent or worse from the field in their fifth straight game, this time connecting on a mere 35.7 percent from the field, including a 30 percent mark in the second half. The Orange were also pummeled on the backboards, getting outrebounded by a 39-29 margin. Virginia also had 13 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 21 points.
Once again, Jerami Grant could not finish a game that he started, leaving the contest at the 4:04 mark of the first half and sitting on the bench for the remainder of the day.
Syracuse jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the game’s opening minutes, but Virginia was quick to respond. The Cavaliers piled up the next nine points of the day to take a 12-8 lead.
Trevor Cooney halted the Cavs’ run with a three-point-play that pulled the Orange within a point. After each team added a field goal, Virginia put together another run, this time outscoring SU by an 8-2 mark, for a 22-15 lead with under seven minutes left in the half.
After a C.J. Fair jumper stopped the run, the Orange turned into a potent perimeter threat. Tyler Ennis, Cooney, and Michael Gbinije all made three-pointers as part of a 13-2 run lasting just over five minutes. The burst gave Syracuse a 28-24 lead with just over a minute left.
Virginia got the last marker of the half, though, hitting a triple to go into the break down a point.
The Cavs got on the board first in the second half as the two squads traded scores to open the half. The seesaw affair was marked by Virginia hitting a three to make their lead two point before SU could tie it, then hitting two more treys, each one matched by a triple from Cooney. The fireworks were paused with the game at 40 apiece, then each team added two points.
From there, Virginia dominated. With less than seven-and-a-half minutes coming off the clock, the Cavaliers rolled up a 20-5 run, blowing open the game.
Syracuse shot blanks, going without a field goal for a span of over eight minutes. Virginia, on the other hand, made 7-of-11 shots from the floor during the run, including three of four shots from beyond the arc.
When that run was complete, the hosts held a 62-47 lead and there were less than four minutes on the clock. A pair of free throws and a jump shot from the seldom-used Tyler Roberson drew the Orange within 11, but that was as close as SU would get.
The Cavaliers made all eight free throws they tried in the final three minutes, and even added some salt to the wound when a walk-on knocked down a three for the final points of the game.
Tyler Ennis and C. J. Fair topped the Orange with 13 points each. Both were more effective in the opening half, piling up 17 points before the break, then combining to shoot 1-for-9 from the floor in the second half. Trevor Cooney was the only other SU player to finish in double figures in scoring, finishing with a dozen. Rakeem Christmas added eight points.Malcolm Brogdon led all scorers with 19 points on the day. Akil Mitchell had 12 points for the Cavaliers, while Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson chipped in with 11 apiece.
Syracuse returns home on Tuesday night for the final home game for seniors C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita. Georgia Tech (13-15, 4-11) will look to play the spoiler role on this special night at the Carrier Dome.
The Yellow Jackets have dropped five of their last six games and face Florida State on Sunday before their trip to Syracuse. Trae Golden (12.6 pts/game) and Marcus Georges-Hunt (12.0 pts/game) are the leading scorers for Tech, while big men Daniel Miller (11.0 pts, 7.8 reb, 2.4 blk per game) and Robert Carter, Jr. (10.1 pts, 8.4 reb per game) handle the heavy lifting on the post.
It will be a 7:00pm Eastern tip-off at the Dome with the ACC Regional Sports Network providing television coverage (check your local listings). The game will, however, be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.