This was never an easy spot for Syracuse or Virginia. It’s a nice luxury to play some weaker teams at the start of the season in order to feel comfortable and gain confidence. Instead, the Orange and the Cavaliers were thrust into the bright lights and looked thoroughly unprepared. Virginia turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes. Syracuse shot 7-27 from the field in the first.
The Orange have never scored fewer points in the Dome. Virginia, the defending national champs, had the best defense in the country last season. Boeheim said that he expects the Cavaliers to be just as good or better defensively this season. Syracuse players complained after the game that they couldn’t penetrate off the dribble. When they did, Mamadi Diakete awaited them at the rim. Something about the Virginia defense confounded Syracuse into stagnation.
“We have to do a better job of screening and moving without the ball. I didn’t do a very good job coaching, getting them moving,” Boeheim said.
Jalen Carey and Quincy Guerrier were in Boeheim’s doghouse quickly. Carey’s first shot was a fadeaway three from the corner that clunked off the top of the backboard. The shot never had a chance and there was time on the shot clock. Later, he drove hard and drew a foul, but missed both free throws. He started the second half 0-2, and was quickly hooked. Guerrier was stuck beyond the three point line, where he is barely a threat. Boeheim had seen enough when the freshman missed his 4th shot of the first half. He’ll seek his first career bucket against Colgate.
The performances by Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Highes were characterized by missed shots. Both came out with an aggressive mindset. Hughes finished 4/14. Buddy went 1/8 from deep. Shooting like that is how to spoil a good defensive performance. The Orange forced 11th-ranked Virginia into 16 turnovers. And UVA shot 4/25 from three-point range. Virginia was swarming on defense as always, but looked like a team that’ll miss De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome very much this season.
For Syracuse, it’s impossible to find offensive bright spots. Dolezaj lost all effectiveness in the second half. Joe Girard played out of control at times. Sidibe wasn’t used offensively and was outmatched by Diakite inside. Diakete, a Naismith watch list member, was the only player on the floor who looked like a national championship piece.
The Orange are a young team. This test was simply much too tough this early. I’ll leave you with the only thing that felt completely normal about this November basketball game: Jim Boeheim is still willing to speak his mind.