The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team fell behind as much as 23 at Virginia and a second half comeback fell short as the Cavaliers handled Syracuse by a final score of 73-66.
With Benny Williams unavailable due to a non-covid related illness, John Bol Ajak made his first career start at Syracuse. Symir Torrence, who missed the Louisville game with a shoulder injury, returned for the Orange.
Once again it was a characteristic slow start for Syracuse, which allowed Virginia’s Armaan Franklin to hit three triples against the 2-3 zone to start the game. Virginia went up 13-5 early.
Jim Boeheim turned to Maliq Brown first off the bench and the freshman forward contributed right away. Brown, who’s been a Johnny-on-the-spot type for the Orange, forced two turnovers right away and found himself wide open at the tin for an uncontested dunk.
Still, Virginia continued its methodic dissection of the Syracuse zone for open looks and started 5-5 from outside as Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely joined the three point party. The Hoos grew the lead to 19-9.
Joe Girard drew the unenviable assignment of trying to score on Kihei Clark and didn’t score until ten minutes in when his first three cut into Virginia’s lead at 20-14.
Syracuse kept pace with Virginia on the glass with a 16-15 edge in the first half mostly thanks to Jesse Edwards’ seven first half boards. But Syracuse surrendered seven first half threes and struggled to take care of the ball. Stymied by Virginia’s acclaimed defense, Syracuse turned it over nine times in the first half and Virginia capitalized on the other end by scoring 13 points off turnovers.
Despite Williams sitting this game, Jim Boeheim still played ten players in the first half. The Virginia-born Syracuse players produced at forward as Brown and Taylor combined for ten points, four rebounds and two steals.
Mounir Hima also made important contributions toward the end of the half with three blocks and two rebounds as Boeheim got to leave Jesse Edwards on the bench with just one first half foul. The Orange went on an 8-0 run to end the half with a Taylor made jumper, two free throws from Brown and a layup and two free throws from Mintz, which narrowed the lead to nine.
Virginia led 35-26 at the intermission.
In the second, Boeheim started Brown at forward. Edwards faced double teams all night and he struggled at times to react quickly. He turned it over for the forth time early in the second half and Virginia took advantage. Another three from Franklin and a wide open dunk for Kadin Schedrick forced a Syracuse timeout just two minutes in as Virginia opened up a 40-26 lead.
Syracuse’s comeback attempt was a non-starter for much of the second half as the Orange struggled to generate offense and defensive stops proved futile. Virginia was able to continue its hot shooting and widened its lead to as much as 23 before the Orange pieced together a run.
With under ten minutes to go, a Mintz corner three cut the Cavalier lead to 15 just as Virginia’s offense went cold. Girard broke into double-figure scoring with his third triple of the game as he cut into Virginia’s lead 57-45. Then a Chris Bell jumper cut it to ten.
Syracuse went to its press and rarely made Virginia feel uncomfortable, but it did give the Hoos less time to work with in the half-court, however. This forced the Cavaliers into tougher shots and allowed Syracuse to make the game as close as seven late.
Still, Beekman was able to knock down another characteristic triple at the end of the shot clock—something he seems to enjoy—which made it 64-50. Then back-to-back threes by Girard got the game to within eight at 2:12 remaining.
Bell cut it to within seven points with a made three with under a minute left, but that’s as close as Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Virginia was able to take care of the ball, scoring in the final two minutes and makings its free throws to keep the Orange at bay.
Girard, Mintz and Brown finished with double-figures with 19, 18 and ten points, respectively. Edwards finished with four points, nine rebounds and three assists while Bell and Taylor chipped in eight and seven points, respectively.
Syracuse fell to 10-6 on the season and 3-2 in ACC play.
Syracuse returns home to take on Virginia Tech on Wednesday. That game tips at 7 p.m. ET and can be streamed on ACCNX.