Sunday, February 18, 2018

No. 3 Virginia Pushes Past Syracuse

Story by: Zach Staton

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va - The third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers extended their win streak to seven games, taking out Syracuse 68-61 Tuesday night in Charlottesville.

The story of the game was summarized by one play late in the contest.  With 2:43 left to play at John Paul Jones Arena , Syracuse was engaged in a full court press, trying to make another comeback against a Virginia Cavaliers team they had comeback victories against in their previous two meetings in as many years.

The Orange forced Devon Hall into a trap and caused him to pass backwards to Ty Jerome. As Matthew Moyer went for a steal off the pass, Jerome launched a full-court pass to a wide open Isaiah Wilkins who dunked it home to finish the play.

Virginia made just enough plays to get by an Orange squad that was within arm's reach for most of the night, but never able to get over the hump.

The Cavaliers were up by as many as 14 points with 1:24 left in the game, but Syracuse's press forced three turnovers that led to nine points in a one minute stretch to cut the lead to five with :15 remaining.

In the two games prior to this one, Virginia gave up second half comebacks to Syracuse after owning double digit leads.  One came in 2016 during the Elite Eight, while the other took place last February at the Carrier Dome.

"It took a little joy away at the end, the way they turned us over and we had some unforced errors," Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said after the game. "But a quality win and you just keep fighting."

A Defensive Battle

Both teams came into the game with stingy defenses. Virginia claimed the top scoring defense in the nation (52.5 points given up per game) with their vaunted Pack-line defense, while Jim Boeheim's legendary 2-3 zone has held opponents to just 38% shooting from the floor, 11th in the country.  

Naturally, the game followed a slower, half-court centric game that focused on the high-profiled defensive units. While Syracuse was able to crack 60 points, something only three other teams have been able to do against UVa, they continued to struggle shooting, making just 38.8% from the floor and 28.6% from the three-point line. 

"Our offense was pretty good the first half, for the most part," Boeheim said. "The second half we really had some opportunities and could not get to the basket. We have got to find a way to score some more points if we are going to be effective."

The Cavaliers did not fair much better, hitting 37.7% of their shots and 33% from the perimeter.

"Those are two teams that really do pride themselves on trying to play very good half-court defense," Bennett said. 

Struggles Continue for Tyus Battle and Frank Howard

Frank Howard led Syracuse in scoring with 18 points on 6-20 shooting from the field and 4-9 from three. He also had seven turnovers, two of which came early in the game and earned him a trip to the bench for a quick pep talk from Boeheim.

"Just tighten up," Howard said of what Boeheim told him. "We don't get a lot of opportunities, when we get those I got to take advantage of them."

Meanwhile, Tyus Battle scored 12 points on 6-16 shooting from the field. He went 0-7 from three, and fouled out for the first time this season. Getting into foul trouble, in particular, made Battle have to be cautious about being aggressive in trying to drive the lane and trying to draw more contact. 

"You just have to be careful not to pick up that last foul," Battle said. "And I picked it up."

After Battle fouled out, Syracuse inserted the press and chopped the lead down to five. 

The Guy and Ty Show

One consistent source of offense in the game for Virginia was Kyle Guy, who finished the game leading all scorers with 22 points, connecting on five threes throughout the contest.  He made just one shot inside the perimeter and hit five free throws as well.

This was the sophomores first 20 point game in over a month and the first time he's hit five threes in a game since Virginia's win over Wisconsin in November. 

"They are a zone tam so you're going to shoot more three's than in a normal game," Guy said. "If Coach (Bennett) had it his way, we probably would have attacked the gaps a little bit more."

His backcourt mate in Jerome shot 10 threes in the game, making just 3 of them. However, those threes came within in a 4 possession stretch that got the Cavalier offense off the ground in the second half. Up to that point, he missed five consecutive shots.  

"I can't possibly miss all of them," Jerome joked. "It's a lead going into halftime, so they did that for me, I felt I had to come out in the second half and give something to the team."

Chukwu Gets on the Glass

On a night where Tyus Battle and Frank Howard struggled to make shots, Pascal Chukwu provided a spark for Syracuse on the offensive side. He scored 9 points and collected 16 of the Orange's 41 rebounds, which included 10 offensive boards. The 16 rebounds was a career-high for the junior.

His performance comes on the heels of Syracuse being dominated on the glass by Notre Dame, 42-27. Chukwu grabbed just three rebounds in the game.  

"We are not a good rebounding team," Boeheim said after the lose to the Fighting Irish. "That was a myth." 

Chukwu had a scare midway through the second half after he hurt his knee on a screen.  He had to be helped off the floor, but returned to the game and stayed in for the remainder of the contest.

Bench Points Become Critical

While the Virginia struggled to get rebounds against the Orange's length, they got more production from their bench, particularly from redshirt freshman De'Andre Hunter. Attacking the middle of the zone for a majority of the game, Hunter chipped in 15 points, 13 coming in the first half.

He scored eight points in a three minutes, all coming either on jumpers from the middle of the zone or free throws. It's the fourth time in five games Hunter has scored in double figures for Virginia.

"I feel a lot more confident," Hunter remarked. "They (the coaches) love when I'm aggressive. They don't like it when I'm passive. I just try to play as aggressive as possible. I feel like it has been helping me so far."

Boeheim took note of Hunter's impact in the first half and adjusted to minimize his effectiveness in the second half.

"We were obviously concerned about the 3-point shooting and he made some good plays inside," the Hall of Fame coach said. "The second half we did a much better job on him."

TV Teddy Back At Work

Part of Tuesday night's officiating crew was Ted Valentine.

Valentine has found himself in numerous controversies throughout his career as an NCAA official, including ejecting an enraged Bobby Knight in 1998, ejecting a fan from an Auburn-South Carolina in 2014, and getting in Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin's face the same year. His propensity for getting into the middle of incidents during games earned him the nickname "TV Teddy."

His latest antic occurred January 3, when North Carolina senior Joel Berry tried to ask about a non-call. Instead of engaging Berry, Valentine turned his back to the guard suggesting he had no interest in discussing the call.  The move received criticism from fans and media, and cost him two Big Ten assignments. 

The blowback was so severe, Valentine told The Athletic's Seth Davis he was contemplating retirement. He went so far as to remove himself from Saturday's Georgia Tech-Yale game to evaluate his options. He promised to still work the ACC games this week that he was already assigned to work.

For now, though, it looks like "TV Teddy" might be ready to collect his 401k earnings. 

Moving On

Virginia improved to 15-1 and 4-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play with the win. They'll finish up a three-game home-stand against NC State on Sunday.

The loss dropped Syracuse to 12-5 overall and 1-3 in the conference.  It's the Orange's third loss in a row.  They will be on the road against another ranked opponent on Saturday, as they travel to Tallahassee to take on No. 23 Florida State. 

Syracuse vs Pitt Photos

The Syracuse Orange defeated the Pittsburg Panthers 59-45 at the Carrier Dome.

The Orange Struggles Through an Opportunity to Redeem Itself

Story By: Kristin O’Grady
Photos By: Katie Benoit

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Breaking their four-game losing streak, the Syracuse Orange returned to the Carrier Dome and defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 59-45 on Tuesday night.

The Orange proved that they can overcome a shaken confidence, but not without revealing their hand. Messy passing, missed shots, and defensive holes forced a frenzied Coach Boeheim to rip off his jacket in frustration. Fortunately, Syracuse freshman Oshae Brissett gave a showy yet skillful performance that kept the fans feeling hopeful until the end.

Slow Start

Syracuse set an early precedent with the tip-off win and Frank Howard’s opening 3-pointer at the top of the key. However, that precedent was reversed when the team attempted to demonstrate their potential with early pressing against the Pittsburgh offense. The strong double team of Brissett and Paschal Chukwu was not enough to turn over the ball. The Orange struggled through multiple Pittsburgh shot attempts before finally seizing a rebound.

Brissett brought the crowd to their feet with a gazelle-like leap and a tomahawk dunk, and Pittsburgh guard Parker Stewart answered with his first of six 3-point field goals. Game play continued at a snail’s pace, and gave way to a long stretch without scoring from either side. Stewart broke the silence with his second 3-pointer and gave the Orange a reason to worry.

Coming Up Short

Veteran players Howard and Tyus Battle displayed the value in their consistent abilities, but made a few too many mistakes. Howard appeared to be throwing the ball around haphazardly, and Battle made only seven out of 16 attempted shots. Their sloppiness allowed Stewart to turn around and deliver his third 3-point shot, bringing the score closer as the half began to wind down.

Four out of five Pittsburgh starters were freshman, as evidenced by their ostentatiousness and lack of technical proficiency. Nevertheless, with five minutes left in the half, Syracuse lost the lead for the first time when Pittsburgh freshman Terrell Brown sank two free throws. On multiple occasions, the Panthers pushed the Syracuse defense to the time limit of the shot clock, providing the Orange with a tough challenge in retaking the lead.

With a strong rebound from Chukwu and an essential turnover from Bourama Sidibe, Syracuse regained momentum. Brissett and Howard contributed with two more points per player, and Battle hit a stylish 2-pointer as the buzzer signaled the end of the first half. With a big grin and a hop in his step, Battle swept the court in a way suggesting that the second half might bring better fortune.

Game of Halves

Syracuse started the next half with a 27-22 lead. Chukwu immediately asserted a strong defensive presence and gave Battle an opportunity to find the net.

The Pitt defense continued to push the Orange to make hasty shots as the shot clock timed out, and Battle redefined his strategy to accommodate for the Panthers’ aggression. With a strong drive toward the basket, Battle dodged three defenders for a 2-point shot. However, Stewart once again reminded fans with his fourth 3-pointer that he had not left the court.

Brissett smashed a 3 and flashed a cheeky smile at the crowd. However, he proceeded garishly in response to Stewart’s fifth 3-point shot, and missed an easy layup. The ball eventually made it back into Syracuse possession, but a messy pass from Howard went way over Chukwu’s head and out of bounds.

Strong Finish

Both sides saw another lengthy break in scoring. Off a pass from Marek Dolezaj, Battle resurfaced aggressively, launching his body into the key and looking for help from his teammates. Howard found his way to the ball and put another two points on the scoreboard.

With a necessary rebound from Brissett, an easy dunk from Chukwu assisted by Dolezaj, and eight more points and a turnover from Howard, the Orange regained some speed. At the three-minute mark, Battle began to run out the clock and followed with a drive to the hoop for two points. When the Panthers regained possession, the over-confident Orange left Stewart wide open. He retaliated with his sixth and final 3-pointer of the game.

Syracuse fit in eight more points to contest Pitt’s final efforts and claim the win. After the game, Coach Boeheim reflected on the match-up, noting that the saturation of freshmen players on both teams created a unique and unrefined competition.

“We need practice days,” Boeheim said. “This team more than any team I’ve ever had at this stage of the year. We really need some days of practice to make sure we understand what we’re trying to do.”

The Pittsburgh Panthers will stay on the road, taking on Duke this Saturday, January 20th, 2018 in Durham, N.C.

The Syracuse Orange return to the court on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 to take on Boston College in the Carrier Dome.

MBB: Virginia vs. Syracuse Pictures

Syracuse struggles against No. 2 Virginia for 6th ACC loss of the season

No. 2 Virginia's defense proves to be too tough for Syracuse

Story by Tyler Dudley / Photo by Monica Ortiz

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Syracuse Orange lost on Saturday in the Carrier Dome against the No. 2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers, 59-44.

ACC Play and Team History

This game marked the second meeting for teams this season. Virginia was 1-2 against the Orange in the Carrier Dome coming into Saturday’s game. The Cavaliers are No. 1 in ACC play with an undefeated season, 11-0. Syracuse, on the other hand, are 4-6 in ACC play.

Virginia extended their win streak to 14 with the win over Syracuse. This marks their longest streak since the 2014-2015 season.

“We have to figure out to win some of those [eight] games." Boeheim said. "The way we’re playing right now, offensively, is going to be very difficult,”

Virginia’s head coach Tony Bennett extended his record against Syracuse to 5-2.

Ball Movement

Starting the game, the Orange maintained possession of the ball. With good ball movement, Syracuse was able to keep the score close within the first seven minutes of play.

The Orange stayed within five points of the Cavaliers until the six-minute mark. The Cavaliers started to pull away from the Orange once Syracuse begin to lack control of the ball.

Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett led the team with four rebounds and seven points in the first half. Marek Dolezaj had three rebounds with only two points in the first.

The Orange not only had good ball movement but with their heavy press defense at some points put a lot of pressure.

Power of Defense

The Cavaliers lead Division I basketball in scoring defense at 52.7. Virginia’s defense held Syracuse to 44 total points which is the lowest number of points scored in Dome history. Syracuse only had 21 points at the end of the first half.

“They are a very defensive team, they make adjustments on the fly,” Brissett said. “That’s where we have to do better and space out and adjust.”

The Orange had four turnovers in the first half, Virginia only had three. Orange heavily forced their press defense on the Cavaliers forcing them to take unwanted shots.

“I thought we did some pretty good things in the first half." head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We wanted to come up on [De’Andre] Hunter and we just didn’t do it.” 

Virgina’s De’Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 15 points and six assists. Tyus Battle scored his 22nd double-digit game of the season with 15 points.

Second Chances

The Orange came into the second half, a different team. Marek Dolezaj opened the half for the Orange with a dunk that excited the crowd.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive to the basket and I’m trying to do that every game,” Dolezaj said.

In the end, Syracuse struggled to stop the Virginia offense as they kept answering right back with points.

Orange had spurts of momentum but were forced to take sloppy shots which resulted in the Cavaliers continuing to pull away.

“We rely on our two guards to score and make plays and when they don’t we have a problem offensively,” Boeheim said.

 Syracuse was out rebounded by Virginia 35-26.  

With 12 fouls called on Virginia, the Orange were only able to capitalize on six free throws with 66.7 percent from the line. These shots at the line were easy points that could’ve helped cut the Cavaliers lead even the slightest bit.

Up Next

Syracuse take on Louisville at Louisville on February 5 at 7 p.m. Virginia travel to Tallahassee and face Florida State on February 7 at 7 p.m.

Orange Drop Fourth Straight, Fall Short In Double Overtime

     An attendance of over 10,000 witness a double-overtime thriller. (c) 2018

Story By Jonathan Singh 
Photos By

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – The Syracuse men’s basketball team fell in double-overtime to No. 23 Florida State, 101-90 in a high-scoring ACC showdown.

The Orange suffer their fourth consecutive loss of the season. They fall to 12-6 overall, but more importantly, drop to 1-4 in conference play.
On the other hand, the Seminoles (13-4, 2-3 ACC) get back to their winning ways after falling short to Louisville 73-69 on Wednesday night, which snapped their 28-game home win streak.

With great effort, comes positive outcomes. When I asked the 42-year veteran coach, “what positives can you take out of this game moving forward.” Boeheim refused to answer. His focus seemed to solely be on what happened against Florida State.

Slow Start On Both Ends
From the start, it was a sloppy first half for both teams. Turnovers and missed shots was the story in the first 20-minutes inside the David L. Tucker Civic Center.

Syracuse looked out of sync. Nothing on the floor was going their way.  The game plan looked to be repeated mistakes from their past losses an it dug the Orange into a 10-point halftime hole.

Second Half: Battle Takes Control
Tyus Battle led the second half Syracuse surge. He dropped 32-points. The 6’6 guard was 4-5 from downtown, he led all scorers in the game with 37-points.

Battle’s biggest shot came in the final moments of regulation as he hit the game-tying three-point shot with six seconds left.

“I thought we fought as well as you can, and made a steal late to give us a chance and then Tyus made the three to tie it,” Boeheim said.

Clutch shot to say the least.

Once Isn’t Enough
It looked like the Orange had finally figured things out when they extended their overtime lead to 78-74.

“In overtime we got the lead, but we just couldn’t get the stop that we needed." Boeheim said. "We needed one more stop.”

The Seminoles wouldn’t go down without a fight though. They kept up with the Orange throughout the first overtime, but it would be Trent Forrest’s two-point floater  that tied the game up at 82 with less than 30 seconds to play.

That would seal the deal for the first overtime.

5 More Minutes
The second overtime was all Florida State. The Seminoles out scored the Orange 19-8 in the final period of play.

“That was a great effort, a tremendous effort, they really played good defense, they pressured us the whole game.” Boeheim said.

The Seminoles used their height to their advantage, slamming two big dunks to pad their lead sending home over 10,000 FSU fans home victorious.

Moving forward
Syracuse will return home to host Pittsburg (8-10, 0-5) on Tuesday. The game is scheduled for a 9 p.m. tipoff.

For sure a winnable game for Cuse. This could spark the winning streak that they have been waiting for as they make a push to get back into the NCCA Tournament.