The calendar changed, but the on-court action felt the same.
Two months after Virginia opened the season with an ugly 48-34 victory over Syracuse, the Orange traveled to Charlottesville for another ACC bout on Saturday. The result changed, but it was still a rock fight.
Fortunately — or unfortunately depending on your outlook — fans were treated to an extra five minutes of the rock fight, and Syracuse prevailed 63-55 in overtime.
“The ACC, at least with a lot of the teams, it’s whoever is ready to play and who plays the best,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said.
After poor effort Tuesday against Boston College, the Cavaliers were ready to play Saturday. The performance, however, fell short.
Once again, poor shooting and turnovers plagued the Cavaliers (11-4, 3-2 ACC). There were a few bright spots, but the offense continues to be a major concern for Bennett’s team.
After a stellar performance the first time these two teams played, Jay Huff found his way into the starting lineup. The redshirt junior delivered another solid outing.
Huff made his impact known in the stat sheet, and he also added an emotional lift. He scored the first points of the game, making an early layup. He battled for loose balls in the paint, slammed in a few dunks and screamed toward the crowd.
The 7-footer played with an edge, and it helped the Cavaliers hang close despite abysmal first-half shooting. Huff’s first dunk helped cut the deficit to 17-15 with 4:35 remaining. Huff used a shot fake at the left elbow to shed a defender and drive in for a right-handed flush.
His second came in the waning seconds of the first half on a putback, and it cut the lead to 24-20 heading into halftime.
Despite good efforts from Huff, UVa’s offense performed poorly. The Cavaliers scored just 20 first-half points and committed nine turnovers.
Syracuse (9-7, 2-3 ACC) opened up a 30-23 lead before Virginia’s offense found some life. Tomas Woldetensae hit a 3-pointer to bring some energy into John Paul Jones Arena. Braxton Key followed that up with a made 3-pointer on the next possession. A Huff layup gave Virginia a 31-30 lead with 14:09 left in the second half.
Another Huff layup and a transition bucket by Clark gave Virginia a 35-30 lead.
As it did against Boston College in its last game, Virginia stormed back from a second-half deficit to take a lead. Much like it did against the Eagles, the Cavaliers let the lead slip away.
“A lot of it was they made shots, we didn’t,” Huff said.
Syracuse took a 36-35 lead on a 6-0 run that spanned nearly seven minutes and ended with 5:13 left in the game. Virginia answered with a jumper by Key before Syracuse added a 3-pointer from Elijah Hughes. He finished with 18 points. Joseph Girard III also added a 3-pointer in that stretch, and he finished with 19 points on the night.
Virginia tied the game at 39 with a Huff dunk. He dunked again one possession later after grabbing the rebound of a missed Mamadi Diakite dunk. UVa led 41-40 before Buddy Boeheim drilled a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining to give Syracuse a 43-41 lead.
Clark added two free throws with 1:19 left to knot the game at 43. Both teams missed decent 3-point looks in the final minute to send the game to overtime.
Syracuse, despite also shooting horrendously through the first 40 minutes, caught fire in the extra period. The Orange drilled three shots from beyond the arc to open the overtime on a 9-2 run in the first 1:39. The point just kept coming for the Orange, who tallied 20 in overtime after scoring just 19 in the second half.
“In the second half, I thought we got good shots,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought Buddy and Joe and Elijah got the shots that we are going to have to make. In the overtime, they got those same shots, and they made ‘em.”
The shot that put a dagger in Virginia’s hopes was a heave as the shot clock expired in the final 90 seconds. Buddy Boeheim threw up a prayer from just inside halfcourt and it went in, giving Syracuse a 57-49 lead with 1:19 remaining.
“I shook Coach Boeheim’s [hand] after and said, ‘Did you teach your son how to make that fall-away 3-pointer?’ and like a typical father he said, ‘Well he missed a lot of shots, though,’” Bennett laughed.
Syracuse did miss a lot of shots. When it was all said in done, the Orange missed 46 shots.
They still won.
It was that kind of day for UVa.