It almost seemed too good to be true. Syracuse? Hanging with the No. 3 team in the nation? On the road? But the Orange pinched itself in the second half of its 68-61 loss to Virginia.
The final score looks much closer than the game felt in its final stages. SU employed the UVA Achilles heel press late in the game to go on a 9-0 run from with 30 seconds remaining. The effort was promising with the press, but it was just too little too late.
Syracuse hung tough with Virginia, even leading at times, in the first half, largely thanks to Frank Howard’s continued three-point marksmanship. But Virginia played its game in the first half. Slow, don’t turn the ball over (just one in the first 20 minutes) and play lockdown defense. That helped the Cavaliers limp to a 29-26 first half lead.
But the real Hoos showed up in the second. UVA started the stanza hot. It shot 4-of-8 from three out of the gate, including some Ty Jerome pull-up triples from seemingly halfcourt, to bury the Orange early. The hole seemed insurmountable, even though we have seen Jim Boeheim pull off far greater comebacks against Tony Bennett.
The second half was just inexcusable offense from Syracuse. For as much as Howard has turned the corner in the three-point department, he is also peaking back around the turnover one. Howard gave the ball away seven times in the loss, which ups his ACC leading total to 75. This is the fourth time the junior has recorded six or more turnovers in a game this season. But Howard was not alone in the offensive struggles. Tyus Battle posted a goose egg from three point range (0-for-7) and fouled out of the game with just 12 points.
At this point, Syracuse tries to play three-on-five basketball offensively, and the big three of Howard, Battle and Oshae Brissett combined for 17-for-51 from the field (33 percent) and 6-for-20 from three. When the bell cows struggle, so does the Orange and tonight is just a continued indication of that.
If there’s any consolation, the road does get a little brighter. After a trip to take on No. 23 Florida State, the Orange gets a game against Boston College sandwiched between home and road tilts against Pitt, followed by a trip to Georgia Tech. If the Orange does not figure it out during that stretch, then it will be time to wave the white flag. No amount of good wins can help it recover from that.
Syracuse drops to 12-5 and is now 1-3 in the ACC with a pair of bad losses. So I’ll just leave this here:
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) January 9, 2018