Syracuse's Press Changes the Game

Syracuse switched to the full court press in the second half when things were looking bleak at best. It worked, changed the momentum, and led the Orange to an improbable comeback victory.

When London Perrantes drilled another three-pointer with 9:33 left in the game, Syracuse's deficit was back up to 15 points. At 54-39, Syracuse was desperate. Every time they trimmed the lead under double digits, Virginia responded. Time and time again they answered a Syracuse run with one of their own. 

It had to be frustrating for the Orange. At some point, most would throw their hands up in the air and just proclaim it was not their day. That would have been an understandable attitude given how the first 30 minutes of Sunday night's Elite Eight matchup had gone. 

But not this Syracuse team. Not this bunch of players who could care less who doubts them or what obstacles are in front of them. 

"The full-court press helped, and we got a steal or two, and then Tyler Lydon made a couple good plays on the back of it stop them in a two-on-one situation, and we finally got our offense," head coach Jim Boeheim said.

After a Tyler Roberson dunk off of a Trevor Cooney assists was followed by a Cooney layup, Syracuse implemented their press facing an 11 point hole. On the first attempt by Virginia to beat it, they did so easily, leading to an uncontested layup. The lead was back to 13. 

No matter. Malachi Richardson hit two free-throws to trim the lead to 11 once again. That's when the press really ramped up its pressure. Back to back turnovers from Virginia allowed Syracuse to cut the lead to seven with 7:37 left. 

Richardson drilled a three to cut the lead to six. He then forced a turnover by stealing a pass, jumping and throwing the ball off of Malcolm Brogdon. That led to a Tyler Lydon triple to bring it to a one possession game. 

"The press definitely gave us life," Gbinije said. "I think it turned the game around, and we did a great job of just hustling and competing during the press."

The press then forced Virginia to speed up, something they are not used to, and Brogdon missed a layup. Michael Gbinije made his and the lead was one. The Orange had all of the momentum and capitalized on that by scoring seven consecutive points from that spot to take a six point lead. 

Syracuse would hold on down the stretch to advance. 

But that press sparked something. It forced turnovers, created short Virginia possessions, energized the Orange and turned the momentum. As Syracuse made their run, the crowd got behind them and the Cavaliers wilted under the pressure of both the Orange defense and the potential of falling short of expectations for the third consecutive season. 

It sparked a comeback that few saw coming. One for the ages. One that will live in the annals of Syracuse and college basketball history. 

"It was a great comeback, one of the best I've coached in, any team I've had, in terms of you're playing, I think, a great team," Boeheim said. "Virginia has beaten us 15 points three straight times, and they were 15 points up today. They're a hard team to come back against, and these guys just made some unbelievable plays. They deserved to win this game."

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