The Syracuse Orange faced their first ACC Challenger of the year this - the University of Virginia - but were unable to stop Hoos’ Head Coach Tony Bennett from moving to 15-0 in ACC Openers, as UVA cruised to an 84-62 win. ‘Cuse drops to 5-3 on the season, with all three losses coming away from Dome.
Naheem McLeod one the opening tip as usual and after both sides missed their first shots, he slammed down a lob pass for the opening points. Then Chris Bell followed it up by setting his feet and swishing a three to beat the shot clock.
That 5-0 start wouldn’t last as the Cavaliers responded with a 7-0 run. Reece Beekman picked up their first field goal a little over three minutes in. J.J. Starling broke stopped that streak by finally making a wide-open shot from distance - only his second of the team. Starling had one of his better offensive games, leading the team with 16 points.
Isaac McKneely made UVA’s first three of the day immediately after - but it would be far from his last. Starling helped set up the response by Justin Taylor, who knocked down this contested look:
JT knocks down the 3 in his hometown!— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 2, 2023
Some rimwork by Maliq Brown and a mid-range jumper from Benny Williams helped the Orange keep pace, and the score was evened up 17-17 with 6:31 to go in the first half.
That’s when the wheels fell off.
JT missed badly from deep, McKneely made his third three, then Andrew Rhode got the steal and score to give UVA their first bit of breathing room, resulting in an SU timeout.
Judah Mintz was shut down all afternoon by the suffocating Virginia defense, but he finally got his first point with 4:03 to go, converting one of two at the line. He’d add four more points in the half, but it was an otherwise quiet performance coming off his career-best 33-point outing against LSU.
A 7-0 Hoos run near end of the half gave them a commanding 37-24 lead heading back down the tunnels. McKneely reached a career-high 16 points in the first half alone, and he ended up with 22 on the day to go along with five rebounds and two assists.
Things just got worse in the second half, as after briefly trading blows, the Orange could not stop their rivals from dropping 13 straight points on them.
If you needed one final sign that the game was sealed, you only need to look to when the score was 55-35. The Hoos had just made back-to-back threes, including a second-chance opportunity from McKneely, when Judah Mintz had the cleanest view of the rim on the arc imaginable. He airballed the attempt - probably his worst miss on the season.
McKneely knocked down another three even with a defender in his face to drive the proverbial dagger in SU’s heart.
Virginia finished with a season-high 12 trifectas on the afternoon. On the SU side, they went just 5/20.
Some positives for the Orange: Taylor continues to be a much-needed rebounder, grabbing five boards, and Maliq Brown had one of his best games with 10 points and five rebounds of his own.
Overall though, it was a rough shooting performance and an even rougher time with just hanging onto the ball - the team combined to allow 14 turnovers.
Syracuse returns home Tuesday night at 8 for an in-state bounce back matchup against Cornell. Dominic will be our rep inside the Dome to provide live updates and a full game recap.