The Syracuse Orange bounced back from Saturday’s blowout loss to push the #6 Virginia Cavaliers to the brink, but again the Orange fell short at the end.
Here are our three takeaways from the loss
At the final media timeout, Virginia had a 59–57 lead. Jesse Edwards missed 1-2 foul shouts from the timeout and Syracuse played a hard defense, forced a miss from Ben Vander Plas and then failed to secure the rebound. Vander Plas came in from out of bounds waiting to touch the ball and it led to a miss by Judah Mintz and a 3 by Kihei Clark.
That sequence said everything about the last play. Once again, the Orange failed to convert an opportunity for a big win by committing fouls, not grabbing rebounds, turning the ball around and making some bad shots. Jim Boeheim may not consider closing games to be a problem, but Syracuse has had three ACC games up for grabs and couldn’t get the job done.
Fatigue comes late
One of the reasons why the Orange fails to complete games could be the over-reliance on the starters. Virginia didn’t have much trouble moving the ball in and around the zone, but Syracuse pressed and fought enough to get the Cavaliers to turn the ball over. They also seemed to run out of gas when Virginia finally made it further towards the assault glass. Maliq Brown played all 40 minutes. Jesse Edwards threw the first 39 before fouling out. Judah Mintz (35) and Joe Girard (36) were active all night, but missed shots on the stretch when the Dutch needed them.
Justin Taylor played 31 minutes in relief for Chris Bell. Only Bell and Symir Torrence saw action in the second half until Mounir Hima finished the last minute after Jesse fouled out. Torrence was again effective in his 8 minutes and you have to wonder why he didn’t see more time as both Girard and Taylor struggled.
The bright side
The Orange enjoyed a 26-8 lead in the first half when it came to scoring in the paint. The guards reached a controlled place. Maliq Brown and Jesse Edwards took advantage of a nice pass. Syracuse shot 62% from the field as they moved and got good shots against the stingy Virginia defense.
As the Orange trailed 46-39 in the second half, they responded with a 12-0 run to take a 5-point lead. The defensive effort was there all night and both Mintz (20 points) and Brown (14 points and 7 rebounds) showed they weren’t afraid of the veteran Virginia squad.
Syracuse is now in auto-bid or bust mode, but it’s still important to point out the positives of the young players on this team.