Here are our three takeaways from the loss
At the final media timeout, Virginia held a 59-57 lead. Jesse Edwards missed 1-2 foul shouts out of the timeout and Syracuse played tough defense, forced a miss from Ben Vander Plas, and then failed to secure the rebound. Vander Plas came in from out of bounds and waited to touch the ball and it led to a gamble by Judah Mintz that missed and a 3 from Kihei Clark.
That sequence said it all about the last stretch. Once again, the Orange failed to convert a chance at a big win as they committed fouls, couldn’t grab rebounds, turned the ball over, and took some bad shots. Jim Boeheim might not consider closing games an issue, but Syracuse has had three ACC games that were there for the taking and couldn’t finish the job.
Fatigue hits late
One reason why the Orange are unable to close out games could be the overreliant on the starters. Virginia didn’t have a lot of trouble moving the ball in and around the zone, but Syracuse did hustle and contested enough to get the Cavaliers to turn it over. They also seemed to run out of gas as Virginia finally got to the offensive glass more down the stretch. Maliq Brown played all 40 minutes. Jesse Edwards went the first 39 before fouling out. Judah Mintz (35) and Joe Girard (36) were active all night but missed shots down the stretch when the Orange needed them.
Justin Taylor played 31 minutes in relief of Chris Bell. Only Bell and Symir Torrence saw action in the second half until Mounir Hima finished the final minute after Jesse fouled out. Torrence was again effective in his 8 minutes and you have to wonder why he didn’t see more time as both Girard and Taylor struggled.
The Bright Side
The Orange were able to enjoy a 26-8 advantage in the first half when it came to scoring in the paint. The guards were getting to a spot under control. Maliq Brown and Jesse Edwards took advantage of some nice passing. Syracuse shot 62% from the field because they were moving and taking good shots against the stingy Virginia defense.
When the Orange fell behind 46-39 in the second half, they responded with a 12-0 run to take a 5-point lead. The defensive effort was there all night and both Mintz (20 pts) and Brown (14 pts and 7 rebounds) showed they weren’t afraid of the veteran Virginia squad.
Syracuse is in auto-bid or bust mode now, but it’s still important to point out the positives from the young players on this team.