Syracuse smothered by No. 2 Virginia’s pack-line defense in 59-44 loss

first_img Published on February 3, 2018 at 6:02 pm Contact Tomer: tdlanger@syr.edu | @tomer_langer Syracuse and Virginia have had very different identities so far this season. The Orange has struggled to standout in the Atlantic Coast Conference, having a losing conference record through the new year. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have lost just once all season, catapulting themselves to No. 2 in the AP polls.Through the first 10 minutes of their second matchup, though, the teams seemed like equals. The top two defenses in the ACC were living up to their billing, each team stifling the other with the offenses needing to run near-perfect sets to convert.That was as good as it was going to get in the game. Syracuse (15-8, 4-6) stopped finding cutting lanes like it did early, falling back to one-on-one basketball to try and bail the offense out. That played right into No. 2 Virginia’s (22-1, 11-1) hand as it held SU scoreless for a six-minute stretch in the first half, opening up a double-digit lead it wouldn’t relinquish. It ended with the Orange scoring its fewest amount of points in the Carrier Dome in a 59-44 loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday in front of a season-high 27,083 fans.“The reason we shot poorly here was (Virginia’s) defense,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “The reason we shot poorly at Georgia Tech was more on us. But Virginia has a lot to do with people shooting poorly. In some situations we made some good penetrations, but not enough.”The Orange’s Achilles heel all season has been its offense, the second-worst in the conference. It’s manifested itself in one-on-one basketball, leading Boeheim to call the offense “terrible” and claim that the team doesn’t run many plays since it can’t hit shots.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textEarly on, SU seemed to buck that trend. On one play Matthew Moyer, who rarely handles the ball, drove hard down the baseline, drawing a help defender in the process. He stopped, pivoted back around and kicked it out to Oshae Brissett at the top of the key.Later on, Brissett cut hard toward the middle while Frank Howard dribbled along the perimeter, getting inside position and forcing a foul. SU had averaged 21.5 first-half points over its last two games against ACC bottom-feeders Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, but had 13 points in fewer than 10 full minutes against Virginia.But Syracuse couldn’t continue that newfound offense movement. Virginia started taking away the cutting lanes and clamping down on ball-handlers.Brissett scored seven points in the first nine minutes of the game. He ended the game with nine points, only scoring on a layup with less than three minutes to go in the game.“They’re a great defensive team, they make adjustments on the fly,” Brissett said. “Whenever they feel someone about to get going, they really focus on them.”Syracuse resorted to relying on a similar formula, which was letting Howard and Battle try and create offense for the team.In very small spurts it worked — Battle scored eight points in a two-and-a-half minute span — but for the most part, Virginia’s defense contained those attacks.“Teams are understanding our schemes, dealing with stuff more,” Howard said. “We have to get everyone involved, start getting some more action from other positions, have our forwards be more aggressive attacking the rim, see how that works.”Meanwhile, Virginia took to abusing the 2-3 zone. When Syracuse played its normal lineup, the Cavaliers attacked out of the high post, as multiple players had no issues draining jumpers from there or kicking out to 3-point shooters when attacked.In his opening statements, Boeheim immediately pointed to De’Andre Hunter, saying that the team’s goal was to press up on him when he got the ball at the high post.That wasn’t happening, though, as Paschal Chukwu routinely let him knock down jumpers from the high post on the way to a game-high 15 points.Despite Syracuse’s defense not playing up to its normal standard — UVA shot 49 percent — it still limited the Cavaliers to 59 points.But when the offense couldn’t get anything going, as expected, none of that mattered. Against the No. 2 team in the country, Syracuse needed to be more than it has been all season.“They’re a great defensive team,” Boeheim said. “And we just weren’t able to get good shots against them for the most part.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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