A quick take on Syracuse’s anemic 48-34 loss to defending national champion Virginia in the 2019-20 season opener at the Carrier Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: With 14:49 to go in the second half, Elijah Hughes connected on a 3-pointer to pull Syracuse to within 30-24. But Jay Huff responded with a layup to key a 12-3 run that was capped by Kody Stattmann’s 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers an unassailable 42-27 lead with 8:35 left. Syracuse got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way in what was an impressive defensive performance for the ‘Hoos, and a wildly disappointing offensive output for the Orange.
ANALYSIS: The ingredients for a disappointing season opener played out on Wednesday night. Syracuse lost four starters and three of its top four scorers from last year’s team, leaving Elijah Hughes and a slew of unproven players in their wake. Defending national champion Virginia, a team that has dominated the Orange since Tony Bennett took over as head coach, didn’t miss a beat on the defensive end, holding Syracuse to 23.6 percent shooting and 5-29 from downtown. There was little fluidity in the Orange offense, as SU was content to pass the ball around the perimeter and hoist away in iso-situations. Syracuse only had seven assists on the night, and was also badly outrebounded 47-28. The one positive for the Orange was its own defense, which forced an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers from the normally disciplined Cavaliers.
HERO: Kihei Clake nearly notched a triple double, finishing with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He was joined in double figures by Mamadi Diakite (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Huff (11 points, 12 rebounds).
ZERO: Quincy Guerrier, projected as a first round pick in some preseason mock drafts, had started in all four Italy exhibitions and also in SU’s two October tuneups. But he was supplanted in the lineup by Marek Dolezaj, and when he came in, was completely ineffective. He mostly stayed around the perimeter, missing all four of his shots, three of them from beyond the arc in a scoreless debut. Jim Boeheim benched him in the second half, giving increased minutes to Bourama Sidibe.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange will remain at home, hosting Colgate on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.