Despite cutting a 23-point deficit down to as low as seven points, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (10-6, 3-2) simply ran out of time and opportunity on the road against the #11 Virginia Cavaliers (11-3, 3-2) in a 73-66 loss. After winning seven of its last eight games, the Orange are back in the loss column in what turned out to be an overall head-scratching performance by the Orange.
Here are some takeaways from Syracuse’s seven-point loss to #11 Virginia on the road.
Takeaway #1: We’ve been down this road before
As we have grown accustomed to so far this season, Syracuse got off to a slow start right from tip-off, trailing 13-5 in the opening minutes and then by as much as 17 points (35-18) at one point in the first half. In particular, the Orange’s half-court offense struggled against a disciplined Virginia defense that held Syracuse to 38.5% shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes of the game (and if not for a late 8-0 run by ‘Cuse, that percentage would be lower).
Give credit where credit is due to the Cavaliers, who double-teamed Jesse Edwards (4 points, 2/5 shooting, and -13 in 26 minutes) relentlessly in the post and dared some of the Orange’s youngsters to make plays off the dribble and create their own shots.
But, Syracuse’s lack of defense was the most frustrating part of Saturday’s game. Virginia shot 5/6 out of the gate from three and 54% overall from behind the line by halftime (only dropping to 46% from three on 26 attempts by the game’s end), picking apart the Orange’s 2-3 zone by putting playmakers on the foul line that led to kick-out opportunities for the Cavaliers.
Mintz leading us on a 7-0 run.— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 7, 2023
He's got 15. pic.twitter.com/dWH8RELgi8
The situation got dramatically worse in the second half, with Syracuse held without a field goal for the first five and a half minutes and Virginia going up by as much as 23 points. Yes, some members of the Orange had their moments, from Maliq Brown’s (10 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals/blocks in 36 minutes) two-way energy off the bench to Mounir Hima’s shot blocking and Justin Taylor’s potential as an off-the-dribble shooter. You also can’t ignore Judah Mintz (18 points and 3 assists on 50% shooting), who gave ‘Cuse consistent offense and finally started to get going in the second half.
With all that said, it was a struggle for the Orange right from tip-off outside of Mintz and the occasional Joe Girard heat check.
Takeaway #2: Too little, too late
Against a slow-tempo team that loves to read and react on both ends of the court like Virginia, it’s a shame we didn’t see the Orange get out more in transition. The Cavaliers thrived with ball-movement and hot shooting throughout most of the game.
However, Syracuse was able to cut the deficit to as low as seven points courtesy of shifting to a full-court press late in the second half, better rebounding by the Orange, and Virginia going ice cold from the field to end the contest (for context, Virginia was held scoreless for over six minutes and held without a field goal for nine minutes in the second half).
Keep fighting.— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 8, 2023
JGIII drops six points in six seconds to pull the Orange to within 8. pic.twitter.com/gXS70Yh17F
With that said, I wish the Orange had gone to that up-tempo, high-pressure look earlier. Against a Cavaliers squad that thrives on a slow pace and reading set defenses in the half-court, Syracuse dug itself a hole that it could not really get out of.
Takeaway #3: The resume outlook gets bleaker
It’s hard to absolutely disparage Syracuse for coming up short on the road to #11 Virginia (even with all the frustration throughout the game). This is a team that’s beaten the Orange in seven of their last eight meetings on the day UVA coach Tony Bennett looked to become Virginia’s all-time wins leader in program history.
But, it’s hard not to see the bigger picture. Seven of Syracuse’s 10 wins are Quad 4 wins, four of which are against schools ranked in the 300+ range according to the NCAA. On the other hand, the team now falls to 0-3 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games with a .500 record (3-3) against Quadrant 3 opponents.
If Syracuse is still looking to get back in the March Madness picture, the Orange need to start racking up some wins against some high-caliber ACC opponents (especially programs that rank in the middle of the pack in the conference like Syracuse). There will be plenty of opportunities this month and moving forward, but if Syracuse continues to fall behind early and play from behind, it’ll be a dark winter ahead.
What did you notice from Syracuse’s loss to #11 Virginia?