SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was senior night inside the Carrier Dome on Monday as Syracuse (18-12, 9-8) honored Rakeem Christmas who is having arguably the best season for a center in program history. The Orange faced the second ranked Virginia (28-1, 16-1) Cavaliers in the last home game of the year.
The Virginia defense was as advertised, helping the Cavs overcome an early deficit and running away from Syracuse in the second half to the tun of a 59-47 victory.
Syracuse held Virginia to just two points through the first 13 minutes of the game, jumping out to a 13-2 advantage. Rakeem Christmas led the way with eight first half points on senior night, but was doubled nearly every time he touched the ball.
During that stretch, the Cavs turned it over 10 times, just over their per game average of 8.7.
Syracuse probably should have held a bigger lead, missing several solid looks from the floor. Keeping the game close allowed Virginia to get into a rhythm and take control of the game from that point forward.
After trailing for most of the half, Virginia closed on an 11-0 run over the final three minutes to take a 23-20 lead into the locker room. They did not turn it over once in that span.
Virginia continued their run in the second half, sprinting out of the gates with a 17-7 spurt that pushed their lead to 13. Syracuse could not get it closer than 10 for the rest of the night as the Cavaliers defense was simply too much for the Orange all night.
WHAT WE LIKED: Tyler Roberson was aggressive and efficient offensively, just about the only Syracuse player to fit the latter description. He finished with 10 points on 5-8 shooting. Syracuse started the game very affective defensively, forcing nine Virginia turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play. In fact, the Cavs turned it over 19 times, more than double their per game average. Christmas finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in his final Carrier Dome appearance for Syracuse.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Michael Gbinije really struggled in this one. Malcolm Brogdon was physical with him throughout and he did not respond. He missed open jumpers, missed layups and turned it over carelessly as he started at point guard in place of freshman Kaleb Joseph. He had several opportunities to cut into the Virginia lead in the second half could not get a shot to fall. Syracuse was also dominated on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 42-20.
KEY MOMENT: After a Tyler Roberson layup cut the Virginia lead to three early in the second half, Malcolm Brogdon drilled a three and the Cavs had two transition layups that extended the lead to double figures. The Orange turned it over twice and missed an open three during that quick run. Syracuse would not get closer the rest of the game.
STATS OF THE DAY: Virginia out-rebounded Syracuse 42-20, giving up 16 offensive boards.. After starting the game 1-8 from the floor, they hit 23 of their next 44 shots (52% ). Syracuse shot just 38% from the floor and only 4-19 (21%) from three-point range.
NOTES: This was Syracuse’s final home game of the 2014-15 campaign. The attendance of 25,338 clinched the attendance crown for the season, topping Kentucky. Rakeem Christmas was honored before the game for his four years at Syracuse. Video of the ceremony is below. The loss ends Syracuse's streak of 17 consecutive 20-win seasons. Syracuse unveiled their new Nike Hyper Elite uniforms in the game. Trevor Cooney led Syracuse in scoring with 14 points but was just 2-8 from three-point range.
QUOTABLE: "(It was) 42-20 on the boards. We’ve really held our on all year on the boards. We got them off to a slow start. We did get some opportunities; we had some pretty good looks during that time. If you are going to have a chance to upset the number No. 2 team in the country, you have to be able to make those shots when they present themselves. I thought we had five or six really good looks at the three-point line. Rakeem (Christmas) passed it out of the double team, made good plays. To upset a team like Virginia you need to make those shots, and where we didn’t, they’re going to score some points. I think the biggest difference in the ball game is that they got us inside on the boards and I just don’t think we competed on the backboards like we have all year."
-- Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim
UP NEXT: Syracuse wraps up their season on the road against NC State on Saturday, March 7th at noon.
Christmas Senior Night Ceremony: