Opportunity knocks, but Syracuse doesn’t answer

Jesse Edwards
Jan 30, 2023; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange center Jesse Edwards speaks to the media following Syracuse's loss to the Virginia Cavaliers at the JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears/The Juice Online.

Another valiant effort, another loss. Syracuse fought their way back into the lead on multiple occasions, but ultimately could not hang in late, falling to #6 Virginia at home, 67-62. After shooting 64 percent from the field in the first half, the Orange (13-10, 6-6) failed to crack the 35 percent mark in the second half and mustered just one field goal in the final five minutes after tying the Cavaliers (17-3, 9-2) at 57.

After tying the game at 57 on a Judah Mintz lay-up, the SU offense could only muster one Jesse Edwards foul shot in the next three minutes, allowing Virginia to take a 64-58 lead. Mintz answered with a scoop at the rim, then a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game with 1:47 remaining.

Edwards, however, fouled out on a charge with 1:00 on the clock. Jayden Gardner connected on a contested jumper over reserve center Mounir Hima on the ensuing possession, doubling the Cavalier lead. Mintz missed a contested three, then Virginia added a free throw as the Orange were forced to foul. Another missed three later, the game was over.

Mintz led the way for Syracuse, finishing with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Edwards overcame a very slow start to finish with 14 points and seven rebounds, as everything but one came after the first 17 minutes of the game. Maliq Brown had eight points and seven rebounds while playing all 40 minutes of the game after it was reported a little over 30 minutes before tip-off that forward Benny Williams was not at the JMA Wireless Dome. After the game, Jim Boeheim explained that Williams took a personal day and will be back at practice on Wednesday.

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Jayden Gardner led the Cavalier effort with 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Kihei Clark posted a double-double of 12 points and ten assists, giving him 21 dimes in two games against SU this season. Armaan Franklin also had a dozen points, connecting on three triples in the contest.

The Orange started off slowly on offense, as has been their way this season, turning the ball over four times in their first five possessions to dig an early 10-2 hole, leading to a time out. SU righted their ship, making their next four shots from the floor to trigger a 10-4 run with a half dozen points coming from Brown.

Virginia stretched their led back out to a half dozen, but Syracuse responded by rattling off nine straight points by scoring on their next four possessions. Justin Taylor started the streak with a three-pointer and a jump shot, then Mintz connected on a pair of shots to put the Orange on top, 26-23, with under eight minutes left in the half.

Back-to-back threes put the Cavaliers in the driver’s seat again, but Edwards, who had not scored to that point, got busy. The center had a three-point-play, a lay-up, and an alley-oop slam on consecutive trips to tie the game after each score. The visitors got a three, but a Symir Torrence finger roll pulled SU within 36-35 at halftime.

The Syracuse offense sputtered to start the second half, as well, and Virginia scored the first six points after the break to stretch their lead to seven. Shortly after that, though, the Orange responded with 12 straight points scored in clusters.

Mintz and Edwards bookended the burst with three-point-plays while Chris Bell, who had been yanked at the game’s first dead ball, came off the bench to hit a three-pointer and three free throws after being fouled on another triple try. The streak staked SU to a 51-46 lead less than eight minutes out of intermission. The Cavaliers scrapped right back, posting 11 of the next 14 points of the game, taking a 57-54 lead on back-to-back three-point shots.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.