Top Performer: True freshman Tyus Battle was the difference in this game for Syracuse. In the first half, the Orange struggled to get into any rhythm offensively. Too often they settled for contested jumpers. In the second half, however, they spread the floor and let Battle take his man off the dribble. It led to a monster 23-point performance on 7-11 shooting, including 3-6 from deep. Not only was Battle's best option at creating offense, but he made a few of his baskets with the shot block winding down in critical stretches. Those buckets kept Virginia from tightening the gap even more. Battle was also strong defensively, causing deflections and getting two steals of his own. Boeheim called it Battle's best performance of the season.
Bottom Feeder: He only played four minutes, but Frank Howard turned it over and committed two silly fouls in that limited time on the floor. On his turnover, he committed a foul immediately afterwards, which led to coach Boeheim immediately pulling him from the game. He did not reenter.
Stat of the Game: Turnovers. Syracuse forced a Virginia team that averages fewer than 10 per game into 15 turnovers. They sped the Cavs up, made them uncomfortable and that led to both forced and unforced mistakes. Syracuse scored 20 points off of those turnovers.
Other Notable Stat: Syracuse shot an incredible 73.7% from the floor in the second half. Think about that. Against arguably the best defensive team in the country, the Orange made 14 of their 19 shot attempts while putting up 44 points. It was an incredible performance.
Turning Point: Trailing by 12 at halftime, Syracuse came out of the locker room on fire. They went on a 19-2 run out of intermission. That gave the Orange their first lead of the game, and they would never give it back. The run lasted 8:28 on the game block, and they held Virginia scoreless for the first seven minutes and eleven seconds of the second half. Syracuse was 7-9 shooting in that stretch while holding Virginia to 1-8 from the field.
He Said It: "I know how many wins I've had. I'm very proud of that. Very proud of that." - Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim on 1,000 wins.
He Said It Part Two: "When we are losing, after the game there's 60 posts. Fourty-eight to fifty are I'm too old, the zone's no good, along those lines.... When we won the other night, there were two comments. So what that tells me is those people are just haters and they're going to hate like John Gillon said. I didn't see any hate in John Gillon the other night either." - Jim Boeheim.
- As if this was not already established, John Gillon is your point guard for the rest of the season. He did not have the same type of epic 43-point outing like he did against NC State, but he still had a solid game. His layup with 56 seconds remaining to put Syracuse up by three was as big of a shot as there was in this one.
- Do not let Tyler Lydon's stat line fool you. He put his stamp all over this game. He only scored six points and grabbed six rebounds, but he was the defensive player of the game. He finished with three blocks and two steals, but that does not even begin to tell the story of how good he was inside. He altered multiple shots at the rim beyond those blocks, got deflections inside and challenged shots at the free-throw line. He was fantastic.
- Freshman Tyus Battle continues to blossom. He was sensational offensively, and finally showed that elite creativity off the dribble that made him such a coveted prospect. Battle consistently got into the lane, finished at the rim, drew fouls and hit contested jumpers. Even more impressive was his ability to create his shot with the shot clock winding down. Defensively, Battle was strong as usual. He got steals, forced London Perrantes to become uncomfortable and deflected several passes.
- Early in the season Andrew White appeared to be not much more than an elite spot-up shooter. That is certainly a desirable characteristic, but in the last few games we have seen more of his all-around game. White was active defensively against Virginia with three steals and a couple of would-be blocks if not for foul calls. White also grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists. But what was the most impressive was his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot against physical UVA defenders. White scored 23 points on 7-13 shooting, and made some critical buckets in the second half.
- Syracuse is now building a resume and are firmly back in the NCAA Tournament mix. There is still work to do, but quality wins over Wake Forest, Florida State, NC State and Virginia certainly bolster their chances. As of now, they have a case. Winning the next two on the road, however, would make their case even stronger.