The Orange Syracuse dared Ty Jerome to shoot on the perimeter, positioned several steps beyond the college line throughout the night. Those shots were the ones that the 2-3 zone could live with, but on two early possessions in the second half Jerome gave Virginia the distance it needed in an offensively-challenged game where both teams shot under 40 percent.
Matthew Moyer had just closed out too hard on Kyle Guy, handing him three free throws and Virginia a 32-31 lead to start the second half. Jerome had already attempted two outside looks, and on the Cavaliers’’ ensuing possession he caught and finished his first make out there. After a defensive stop, he hit a longer three. Then, he stepped back from near half court and splashed a third.
The sequence was Jerome’s only impactful stretch of the game, but handed the Cavaliers a 8-10 point cushion the rest of the night in what became a 68-61 win over Syracuse.
Frank Howard entered the Jim Boeheim dog house early in Tuesday’s road game against No. 3 Virginia. Both Moyer and Howard (now both familiar with that house) played vital roles in the Orange competing with the nation’s top defense.
Troubling trends early collapsed into a muddy, low-scoring game that boded well for Syracuse. Two offensive rebounds landed in Virginia’s hands on the second possession, then Kyle Guy hit his first two three-point attempts on kick-outs from the interior. Syracuse responded with high-low passing, setting up Oshae Brissett for downhill drives to the rim into contact.
Both teams struggled to fully initiate their offenses, but Syracuse especially looked off balance. Howard tossed an errant pass into the post at Paschal Chukwu, who had to toss it outside into an eventual turnover. That landed Howard on the bench, but he’d return one minute later and score 11 of the Orange’s first 22 points.
Howard’s first set back created an elbow two to tie the game at seven. Tyus Battle struggled, turning the ball over twice in the first half moving around screens, as he did on the final play against Notre Dame, and started 0-of-5 from three. The defense, offensive rebounding and Howard picked up the slack. For four minutes the Orange held the Cavaliers scoreless, and Howard hit a spot-up three to take a 10-9 lead (Howard had eight of the 10).
Moyer got involved on the boards, playing heavy minutes alongside Chukwu inside and tipping a rebound out to Battle on the move who was able to keep moving in transition for two a few possessions later. Chukwu grabbed two offensive rebounds on Syracuse’s ensuing possession, cleaning up the second for two on what would become a season-best night on the boards for him. Virginia followed with a three-pointer, which the Orange matched on a kick-out from Howard to Brissett.
The logjam on the scoreboard continued, with the Cavaliers aiming to establish De’Andre Hunter in the high post to make passes or shoot over Chukwu from that area. He hit a two, and Guy a three with passes along the perimeter to take a 20-19 lead. Devon Hall would pull Marek Dolezaj to the perimeter, then kick low to Isaiah Wilkins for a score, manipulating the zone with movement. Howard hit a three in response, but the high entry pass kept producing easy offense for the Cavaliers as Hall hit to take a 24-22 lead. Moyer propped a miss into the net down low to tie the game.
A back-and-forth stretch followed and Virginia led 29-26 at half.
Syracuse’s best chance to win the game came to start the second. Moyer finished a Chukwu miss inside, got a hard rebound to end a defensive stop, then the offense set up Brissett with his second three of the game. Jerome went on his tear to follow after Moyer fouled Guy, hitting three three-pointers in a row in a game where he shot 3-of-10 outside.
The Orange’s best stretch from there were a pair of fadeaway jumpers inside the arc by Battle and Brissett but Battle ultimately fouled out of the game, shooting 6-of-16.
Virginia didn’t even hit a two until Hunter followed a miss with 6:11 to go, but nine threes was all the team needed to win with the Orange shooting 38 percent from the field.
Syracuse broke into the press with 2:52 left, down eight and almost worked a miracle but time was too short. A Chukwu follow on Brissett’s steal and run, the big man’s 10th offensive rebound and 16th overall, a Brissett steal-and-score underneath to follow and two more free throws only got the Orange within five before Virginia closed the door and handed Syracuse its third straight loss.
Frank finished as the high point man with 18 points while also turning the ball over 7 times. Brissett and Battle had 16 and 12 respectively while Chukwu finished with 9 points and 16 rebounds.
Syracuse now moves to 1-3 in the conference and will head to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. That game tips on Saturday at 2 p.m.