On his senior night, Rakeem Christmas was held to just 10 points as the Syracuse Orange suffered a 59-47 defeat to the Virginia Cavaliers on Monday.
Those 10 points were nearly eight fewer than the 17.8 points Christmas averages per game, but they weren't his most troubling statistic. Even more telling were the mere four rebounds the big man grabbed, down more than five rebounds from his 9.2 per game average.
It was the theme of a long night for Syracuse (18-12, 9-8 ACC). Virginia dominated on the glass for almost the entire 40 minutes, pulling down 42 rebounds -- including 16 on the offensive end -- to SU's 20.
"I just don't think we competed on the boards like we have all year," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. "I just thought that was the difference. We can't win if Rak gets four rebounds. We need him to get 10 to 12 rebounds."
The loss marked Christmas's final game at the Carrier Dome. But at least for much of the first half, it appeared as if it would be a pleasant senior night for the big man.
Syracuse controlled the game early and led 13-2 at the 7:11 mark of the first half. Virginia cut the deficit to 17-12 within less than four minutes, but a Trevor Cooney 3-pointer from just inside of half court stretched SU's lead back to eight points at the 3:13 mark.
From there, it was all Cavaliers. Virginia ended the first half on a 11-3 run, grabbing a 23-20 halftime advantage. In the second half, the Hoos picked up where they left off, outscoring the Orange 36-27 in the final 20 minutes.
Its 47 points were the second-fewest of the season for Syracuse, which was held by the Cavaliers to just 38.3 percent shooting from the field and 21.1 percent from 3-point range.
"They're really good," SU guard Michael Gbinije said of Virginia's defensive. "They did a good job individually of keeping people in front. And the times you do beat them, another guy would step up, and they rotated very well."
Syracuse tried and tried again to cut into UVA's lead in the second half. But the Cavaliers seemed to come away with every key rebound, limiting SU to one shot per possession and extending their own possessions to two and three field goal attempts.
"They flat-out killed us on the boards," Gbinije said. "I don't have an explanation for it. They really...just kicked our butts on the glass."
Leading Syracuse in the loss was Trevor Cooney, who scored a team-high 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Tyler Roberson matched Christmas with 10 points, while Gbinije scored only eight points, the fewest he's had since scoring seven against Cornell on December 31.
SU point guard Kaleb Joseph registered just three minutes of playing time after sitting out the entire first half. He started each of the first 28 games this season.
"He just hasn't been playing very well," said Boeheim, when asked why Joseph sat out for most of the game.
On the other side, Virginia's Anthony Gill led all scorers with 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Darion Atkins and Mike Tobey combined to pull down 17 rebounds of their own. The trio worked together to make life miserable for Christmas, spoiling the senior's final game at the Carrier Dome.
But with one minute remaining and Syracuse trailing 59-44, Boeheim pulled his center from the game, allowing Christmas to receive one final ovation from the Syracuse faithful. It's been quite the senior season for the big man, who ranks third in the ACC in scoring and fourth in rebounding after averaging just 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game a season ago.
"For him to have the year that he's had is well-deserved," Cooney said. "It's a shame it had to end this way."