After a shaky first-half, Syracuse comes from behind to defeat Virginia 73-70 in front of 22,096 at the Carrier Dome Friday night.
The great win over Kansas coupled with the Thanksgiving holiday was a good recipe for a letdown. And unfortunately for the Orange, that's exactly what happened. An Eric Devendorf layup put SU up 2-0. That's the only lead the Orange would hold in the first half.
It was a brutal 20 minutes of basketball as Virginia went on top by seven only four minutes into the game. The lead would fluctuate throughout most of the half, but the Orange could not break through because of bone-headed plays and turnovers. Syracuse lost the ball 11 times during the first half, which seems to be a bad habit that this team has yet to break in the young season. Most stupefying was the terrible passing, especially when SU was able to get out in transition because that's where this team excels.
Despite the poor play, Syracuse had an opportunity to climb back into the game in the final minutes of the half. Devendorf knocked down two free throws after an intentional foul was called to cut the deficit to four. With a chance to make it a one possession game, Andy Rautins lost the ball which led to a basket for the Cavaliers. Virginia went on a 9-0 run and went into the locker room with a 40-29 advantage. Syracuse had only one player in double figures (Devendorf) and shot 36 percent from the field. Arinze Onuaku had zero points and point guard Jonny Flynn only had three after the first period of play.
The second half looked much the same as Virginia would not relinquish its lead, staying ahead by nine points after seven minutes of action. But the Syracuse faithful really started to get behind its players, and the Orange responded. Dribble penetration left sophomore Rick Jackson wide open for a pair of dunks and then a spectacular reverse layup from Flynn pulled SU to within three at the 10 minute mark.
The Cavaliers could not hold back the Orange much longer. After a cold shooting night, Rautins found his stroke. The junior guard hit back-to-back three-pointers causing the crowd to erupt as those shots put the ‘Cuse back on top with a little less than eight minutes to go. Syracuse shot a blistering 60 percent in the second stanza to erase the deficit and take control. SU held a three point lead with just over a minute left, and cashed in from the charity stripe to finish off Virginia. The ‘Cuse went 7-of-10 from the free throw line to improve to 6-0 on the season.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 73-70 win over Virginia:
· The Orange just looked awful in the first half. Way too many turnovers (11) and guys like Paul Harris just seemed to force the action instead of running the offensive sets. Harris was responsible for four of those miscues.
· But SU would take much better care of the ball in the second half, committing only four turnovers. Still, on the night Virginia converted those mistakes into 21 points and outscored the Orange on the fastbreak, 15-14. It's only a one point difference, but Syracuse loves to score in transition and just made poor passes on the run.
· An even more concerning stat is in the rebounding category. Syracuse was outrebounded 38-33 and let Virginia bring down 13 offensive boards.
· Where was Arinze Onuaku? After getting some love from Dick Vitale during the Kansas game, the big man was invisible for most of this contest. A.O. did not score in the first half and finished the game with six points and only three shot attempts. At least he made all four of his free throws.
· Mr. Dependable came through after a rough start. Flynn scored 12 second-half points and assisted on both of Rautins' treys which completely swung the momentum in favor of the Orange.
· At times it doesn't look pretty and he can be very frustrating. But Rick Jackson had some huge dunks tonight and he's a defensive presence in the middle. He just seems a bit uncomfortable out there. If he calms down and focuses on what he does best, rebound and block shots, Jackson will be a big help to the Orange.
Syracuse (6-0) takes on the Colgate Red Raiders on Monday night at the Carrier Dome.