Yet again, a case of so close yet somehow still so far.
After trailing multiple times against the #6 Virginia Cavaliers (17-3, 9-2) at home Monday night, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (13-10, 6-6) managed to tie the contest with a little over four minutes left to go.
And then, as with its recent string of close battles, the Orange fell short due to struggles at the foul line and timely shots from a tough Virginia squad.
It was a tale of two halves, as both teams shot above 60% from the field in the first 20 minutes but then fell below 35% in the last 20 minutes. With that said, the Cavaliers’ 42.9% performance from three and its superb passing (19 assists on 23 baskets) ultimately were too much for Syracuse to overcome despite yet another close effort in its 67-62 home loss.
Similar to its last matchup, the Orange got off to a slow start on both ends of the court, turning the ball over four times in the game’s first three minutes while allowing the Cavaliers to get two quick threes early. Virginia focused early on trapping Joe Girard high on the perimeter and hard double-teams against Jesse Edwards, leading to both struggling to get going early.
Syracuse trailed 10-2 early, but a scoring run saw both teams start the game with a combined 14/20 shooting from the field, with the Orange only down 20-17 at the midpoint of the first half. Virginia’s first seven baskets came off of assists, but the Orange used an early 12-4 points in the paint advantage coupled with extra effort on the offensive glass.
Despite its early deficit, Syracuse used a 9-0 run to briefly take a three-point lead (26-23) as Judah Mintz (10 points on 5/7 shooting) and Maliq Brown (6 points on 3/3 shooting) powered the Orange’s early-game offense, with this Mintz score giving the team its largest lead in the first half.
Virginia fought back to end the half, but Edwards scored seven straight points to keep Syracuse’s offense in full throttle with guards Symir Torrence and Justin Taylor providing a spark off the Orange bench.
Syracuse trailed 36-35 at halftime as both programs shot above 61% from the field in a half that saw 4 ties and 2 lead changes. The Orange focused on attacking the rim offensively, taking advantage of a 26-8 margin in paint points, while the Cavaliers shot 6/10 from three with 12 assists on its first 13 baskets against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. The trio of Mintz, Brown, and Edwards combined for 23 of the Orange’s 35 points, while Virginia forward Jayden Garnder (10 points) and guard Kihei Clark (7 points) led the way for the Cavaliers in the first half.
Just like the first half, Syracuse struggled to get going coming out of halftime, allowing a 6-0 run to let Virginia take a 42-35 lead just three minutes into the second half. The Orange were able to keep within distance for the most part, as Brown and Mintz continued to produce on the offensive end with the defense showing little resistance against the Cavaliers.
But just like that, the Orange answered right back as another mid-half run saw Syracuse go from down seven (35-42) to up five (51-46) with 12 minutes left to go in the game. Chris Bell, who hadn’t played since there was 19:46 left in the first half, scored six straight points in the run followed by a big-time and-one from Jesse Edwards to give ‘Cuse its largest lead up to that point.
The defensive intensity improved for both teams in the second half. Syracuse held Virginia to just 6/19 shooting from the field and 0/5 from three with under eight minutes left, while the Cavaliers likewise kept the Orange at just 6/16 from the field at that same timestamp.
Syracuse trailed 59-57 with under four minutes left to go, and despite multiple opportunities, the Cavaliers simply had too much passing and shot creation, plus enough late-game execution to hold the Orange back.
Mintz and Edwards combined for 34 points on great efficiency, while Girard (7 points on 3/12 shooting) struggled to really get going, especially in the second half. Three players for Virginia scored in double-figures, led by a 17-point effort from Gardner, including the late-game shot that ultimately put the contest out of reach for Syracuse.
The loss to #6 Virginia gives ‘Cuse its third-consecutive defeat, dropping the Orange to 0-4 in Q1 opportunities.
TNIAAM community: how do we feel about the Orange falling short yet again? Leave your thoughts and reactions in the comment section down below.