Syracuse has lowest scoring game in 74 years against No. 11 Virginia

first_imgAs Syracuse passed the ball around the perimeter, one fan let out the cry of a flaking offense. “Someone move,” he yelled.No one did. The ball flung around the perimeter to freshman Brycen Goodine. He took a step forward and jumped. The shot was blocked. Another Syracuse possession had ended without points and the crowd groaned again. Fans flooded up the bleachers toward the exit. With a little more than five minutes to play, the Orange hadn’t cracked 30 points. When the last ball finally clanked off the rim and Syracuse players had turned their heads in anguish enough times, No. 11 Virginia (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) beat Syracuse (0-1, 0-1), 48-34, on Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome. It was Syracuse’s worst offensive performance in 74 years. The Orange shot 23.6% from the field, including 5-of-29 from beyond the arc. On the opening night of the 2019-20 season, Syracuse needed to find a new offensive identity. Instead, it met the strangling bully of Virginia’s pack-line defense. “We just are not ready to play against that defense,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought we were going to be a little better, but we really just did not do the things offensively…we just really never got movement and when we got it, we just really didn’t get positive actions off the movement.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse’s 34 points against UVA is the lowest total any Jim Boeheim team has scored. Max Freund | Staff PhotographerSyracuse’s first opponent of the 2019-20 season wasn’t the easy win it had become accustomed to. Instead of Eastern Washington or Cornell, the Orange welcomed the defending national champions and a perennial conference juggernaut under head coach Tony Bennett. Virginia’s defense has ranked in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency stat each season since 2014. Boeheim described the Cavaliers as the best defense Syracuse would see all year. And without its top two scorers from a year ago, Virginia’s defense stifled the Orange. The defensive set itself, known as the pack-line, is a man-to-man. Freshman Joe Girard III noted the classic man scheme but it’s like “you’re against 1-on-5,” he said. The way Virginia sags off players who don’t have the ball creates a fortress around the paint, and Syracuse couldn’t penetrate it.“They’re always in front of you,” forward Marek Dolezaj said. “They never jump at a shot fake. They are always at the same place. They just don’t let you do anything.” So, Syracuse stood from outside the wall created by the Cavaliers and fired. Even 29 3-point attempts couldn’t bail the Orange out.It all came down to movement, both Boeheim and players said. Elijah Hughes, who led Syracuse with 14 points, admitted it can become easy to stand around when shots aren’t falling. The Virginia defense builds on its opponent, slowly lulling the players without the ball to sleep. They needed to screen the ball more. Or screen off-ball. Or screen for Hughes. Or screen for Buddy Boeheim. Packed in close, Virginia’s defense had Syracuse where it wanted: Far away from the basket. The Orange never moved so Virginia didn’t have to either. “It’s just hard,” Hughes said. “We didn’t get in a rhythm because of it and they just made it difficult for us.”Boeheim noted in the preseason that his time will rely more heavily on the 3-pointer. Numerous shots rimmed out in the first half when the Orange had open looks. More than 10 minutes into the game, Syracuse’s lone points had come from a Bourama Sidibe layup. Marek Dolezaj was one of three players to score over three points. He went 2-for-8 on the night. Max Freund | Staff PhotographerIn spurts, SU flashed what it could be offensively. On one series, a Virginia defender stuffed Hughes’ jump shot from the elbow. Syracuse retained possession though, and when Hughes drove to the basket, he finished through a foul. The redshirt junior, clenched his fists and let out a roar. That’s what this offense can be — a Hughes takeover. But it didn’t last as he clanked the ensuing free throw.Girard III, New York State’s all-time leading scorer, sank his first bucket for Syracuse against Virginia, a 3-pointer in which the ball bounced off the back of the rim and in through the mesh. Kihei Clark, the Cavaliers star guard, frequently picked Girard III up at or before the half-court marker. Girard III crossed his defender up on a drive to the basket midway through the first half, drawing a resounding “ooo” from the crowd. As the freshman guard drove toward the baseline his kick out pass was far off from any white jersey and went toward the radio announcers. As the freshman dribbled around the top just beyond the three-point arc, an extra defender sometimes slid up to help out despite Bennett waving them back. Girard III then advanced the ball on to Dolezaj in the high post. With no man on him, Dolezaj scored once. Another time he looked for a skip pass. It soared over Buddy’s head in the opposite corner. Syracuse’s offense can be a Girard III or Buddy shooting show. On Wednesday, it was off the mark.“We’ve got guys that can shoot,” Boeheim said. “I’ve got to get them in better position to get them better shots, better looks and we’ll see how we can build in the next week or so.” Syracuse kept it close with Virginia all night. The shots just never fell. At some point, it all adds up. Or in Syracuse’s case, not enough added up.  Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 6, 2019 at 11:10 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *