Syracuse, N.Y. — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim could not have explained Monday night’s 81-58 loss to the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers any simpler than this in his postgame press conference.
“We’re not a top 10 team,” Boeheim said. “They are.”
Good night everybody!
It really was that clear on Monday night at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Virginia shot the lights out from distance, put on a passing clinic, defended with a purpose and made the Orange feel like it was Randy trying to catch up with Ralphie and his friends on the way to school.
“Come on you guys! Wait up!”
“Virginia is a top-10 team with the way they have been playing,” said Boeheim. “They’re a really good shooting team and they move the ball well. Offensively, I thought we had some good looks, but we didn’t make enough of them to stay in the game.”
“I think we’ll learn something from this game,” Boeheim said.
I know what I learned.
That the gap between Syracuse and the top team in the ACC is still too wide to bridge.
The Dark Side
Syracuse defenders were constantly a step behind when Virginia was on offense, resulting in the best scoring output Tony Bennett’s team has put up on a Jim Boeheim defense.
Virginia put on a passing clinic, assisting on 23 of 29 made shots against the Orange.
The Cavaliers scored from the outside, inside and everywhere in between. Syracuse countered with just 10 assisted baskets on 22 field goals.
Sam Hauser torched Syracuse from the outside, scoring 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the 3-point line. Hauser’s shots were rarely contested, and he collected all his points from beyond the arc.
Trey Murphy joined the 3-point party, shooting 4-of-10 from distance. Virginia was 14-of-31 (45 percent) overall from beyond the arc.
“They’re a really good shooting team,’’ Boeheim said. “Those two guys (Hauser and Murphy) can shoot it. They make threes against everybody. They make them against man-to-man, zone, doesn’t matter. They’re a good shooting team.’’
The Cavaliers did plenty of damage inside the arc as well.
Time and time again, 5-foot-9 point guard Kihei Clark baited Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III to chase him in the paint, leaving shooters open. Alan Griffin and Quincy Guerrier could not get to the corners to defend open 3s. Clark finished with nine assists.
7-foot-1 forward Jay Huff had a field day in the paint, scoring a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, many of those dunks. He added 12 rebounds to the mix.
“We forgot who was the shooters,’’ Guerrier said. “Sometimes we’re not closing out on the shooters. I think Hauser had seven threes. We can’t do that. We need to know our personnel and (we need) to do a better job.’’.
Virginia is clearly on another level compared to SU’s last two opponents, Miami and Virginia Tech.
That said, it feels like two games of defensive progress (holding the Hurricanes to 57 points and the Hokies to 60) went out the window in Charlottesville.
Beyond the Arc Issues
Syracuse matched Virginia’s white-hot shooting with a paltry 5-of-24 (21 percent) performance from the 3-point line.
Buddy Boeheim continued to struggle from beyond the arc, shooting 1-of-8 from distance despite having several clean looks at the basket. He is 6-of-29 from 3-point range (20 percent) in Syracuse’s last four games. Boeheim is now 22-of-80 (27 percent) on the season from the 3-point line.
Boeheim struggled all over the court on Wednesday, committing four turnovers in addition to the misfires from distance. One bad pass finished with a Hauser 3 on a fast break.
“He’s just a little off,” Jim Boeheim said of his son’s performance. “He’s getting more defensive pressure. Tonight, I thought he really got good looks. His 3s were pretty good. I really thought he got pretty good looks. They didn’t go.”
Joe Girard III was 2-of-6 from distance in 26 minutes against the Cavaliers. He scored just eight points against UVA.
Alan Griffin chipped in one 3-pointer on five attempts.
It was critical that Syracuse hit 3s to have a shot against Virginia, much like it did in the 2016 Elite Eight and in a 63-55 overtime victory last season.
To say the least, Syracuse failed that test on Monday and has too many times when it mattered this season.
Syracuse ranks 13th in the ACC in 3-point percentage (111-for-354, .314).
Where’s the Bench?
Syracuse’s bench contributions were limited to a combined 27 minutes from Kadary Richmond and Robert Braswell.
Richmond is a talent and certainly a better defender than Girard or Boeheim but is not the pied piper that will lead Syracuse out of its backcourt blues as some fans have anointed him.
Richmond really struggled in 20 minutes of action against Virginia’s relentless defense, turning the ball over often.
Robert Braswell cut the Virginia advantage to 49-38 on a 3-pointer with 12:52 to play. He also picked up two quick fouls in a game the officials’ whistle was barely heard.
It’s hard to believe there wasn’t room for Jesse Edwards’ 6-11 frame to try to defend Huff in the middle. His absence from the game, barring an unreported illness or holdup, was inexplicable.
Woody Newton, one of the highest-rated defenders on the Orange, has barely been seen. He has played five total minutes since Dec. 19 against Buffalo.
Again, barring an unexplained injury or holdup, why is that?
“We’re playing the guys that are playing the best in practice,” Boeheim said when asked if Newton is healthy.
Would Edwards or Newton have made the difference against Virginia? Perhaps not.
The question is, why does Boeheim insist on not finding out?
The easiest tell of a Syracuse win or loss is in the rebounding department.
Syracuse is 9-0 in games it out-rebounds the opponent. The Orange are 0-5 in games it does not.
Virginia out-rebounded Syracuse 41-28.
You know the rest.
The Sunny Side?
It’s hard to scrape together any positives from Monday’s game. Syracuse was simply outclassed in every way by Virginia.
Quincy Guerrier had 15 points — though he was 6-of-16 from the field — and seven rebounds. Alan Griffin had a few moments on the way to 13 points and eight boards. Marek Dolezaj chipped in a quiet eight points and six rebounds after an 18-point explosion on Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Syracuse did force 13 turnovers against a Virginia squad that was averaging just 8.2 giveaways per game, but that gets washed out by the superb passing and 3-point shooting displayed by the ‘Hoos.
This, That and the Other Thing
- Monday’s game marked the 15th all-time meeting between Syracuse and Virginia. The Cavaliers have won nine.
- Syracuse is 17-39 against Top 25 teams since the 2014-15 season.
- Virginia allowed about 200 fans for the game, mostly limiting those who could attend to family/friends of players. Among those in attendance was Joe Girard’s father, Joe Girard II.
- The game went at a quick pace with whistles a rarity from the officials. Neither team made a free throw until Virginia’s Reece Beekman converted from the charity stripe with 12:21 to play in the second half. Syracuse and Virginia took a combined 21 free throws.
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