For the second straight Saturday, Syracuse claimed a huge upset at the Carrier Dome, this time holding off #9 Virginia, 66-62. The win is the fourth in a row for the Orange, who not only improved to 15-9 overall and 7-4 in the ACC, but moved into position for more consideration for an NCAA Tournament invitation.
In a game of runs before heading to a taut finish, the Cavaliers (17-5, 7-3) were in front for almost the entire first half and held a 12-point lead just at halftime before SU came roaring back. Syracuse opened the second half a 19-2 run to take the lead, then made 9-of-10 foul shots in the final 3:17 to hold on for the win.
Virginia owned the opening five minutes, grabbing a 9-2 lead before the Orange could counter. And counter they did, as SU rolled up seven straight points to knot the score. Tyus Battle opened the burst with a triple and closed it with a lay-up on the heels of a Tyler Roberson score, wiping out the Cavalier lead in little more than a minute.
Most of the remainder of the opening half followed a script of Virginia opening up a lead and Syracuse surging back to tie the score. The Cavaliers changed the path of the game by owning the final seven minutes of the first half, closing the session with a 15-3 burst, including eight straight points before the buzzer, to head to the locker room with a 34-22 lead.
The Orange responded by shredding the best college defense in the country, shooting over 73 percent from the floor after returning from the locker room.
While their offense got into gear, SU also pitched a shutout for more than seven minutes to open the second half. Battle opened the half with a three-pointer, then Andrew White III added a free throw. Taurean Thompson added a jumper and a dunk, then White III ended a dry stretch with a three to bring Syracuse within a single point at 34-33 with just over six minutes elapsed.
Virginia scored to stop the bleeding, but the Orange went right back to work, rolling up eight more points to take a lead they would never relinquish. White III drilled a trey to knot the score, then Tyler Lydon followed with one of his own on the ensuing SU possession to take the lead for good. John Gillon added a lay-up, pushing the margin to five points at 41-36 with 11:32 to play.
The remainder of the game featured the Cavaliers slicing into the lead, but Syracuse responding at every turn. Virginia drew within a bucket twice, but a Gillon lay-up and two Battle free throws nudged the lead to a half dozen with just under nine minutes to play.
The lead bounced between three and five points for a few minutes until a Cavalier triple got them within two points. Battle responded with two successful possessions, draining a jumper with just over four minutes left, then adding a pair of foul shots to reinstate the six-point lead at 57-51 in favor of the Orange with just over three minutes on the clock.
London Perrantes hit a jumper and a three around a Lydon foul shot to bring the visitors within two points, but White III connected on two from the stripe to make it a four-point game. Perrantes bombed in another triple, but Gillon answered with a jumper for a 62-59 SU lead with just under a minute to go.
One free throw brought the Cavs within two and they chose to foul. Battle went to the line with 29 seconds remaining and connected on both, making it a two-possession game. Virginia got a lay-up to get within 64-62 and fouled White III after the ball was inbounded. The graduate student went to the line and knocked down a pair, staking Syracuse to a 66-62 lead that would stand up for the final 16 seconds.
Tyus Battle and Andrew White III shared high-scoring honors, as they each tallied 23 points for the Orange. Battle hit 7-of-11 field goals, including three triples, while White III also connected from long range three times and collected three steals. No other SU player scored more than a half dozen points in the game.
Kyle Guy did most of his damage from deep, hitting four threes for the bulk of his team-high 14 points. London Perrantes had 11 points while Ty Jerome and Isaiah Wilkins each added nine to the Cavalier cause.
Tuesday night, the Orange head south to Clemson to tangle with the Tigers. Clemson (13-8, 3-6) will travel to Florida State on Sunday prior to meeting up with SU. The Tigers have rebounded to win their last two games after falling in five straight ACC contests.
Jaron Blossomgame is Clemson’s top scorer and seventh in the conference, averaging 18 points per contest, and is also the team’s second-best rebounder. Avry Holmes is the only other Tiger averaging double figures in scoring at 11.4 points per outing, but four other players average between 8.5 and 9.4 points per game.
The game, which will get underway at 8:00pm Eastern, will be televised regionally by the ACC Network and available online at ESPN3.com.