Orange Squeezes Virginia Again

The nice thing about this instance of losing a big lead to Syracuse is that at least this time, we’ll have something else to think about in a little more than 48 hours. Still, in a stretch like this one, I was hoping to count this game as a W.

The tightly wound arms indicate a man that is holding himself back from assaulting a referee. (Photo by Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

The first half was fun. Even with seven turnovers (a sure warning sign), the ball moved (12 assists on 13 baskets for the frame) and went in the basket (52% overall, 7–11 on threes). On the other end of the floor, Syracuse seemed content to settle for contested threes (12 of their 23 shots), and made just three. Only Tyus Battle (10 points) seemed interested in attacking (another warning sign). Kyle Guy discovered his shot (3–3 3PT, nine points), Mamadi Diakite came off the bench to finish around the rim (eight points), attack the offensive glass, and anchor the D. London Perrantes was doing his snake in the grass routine, dishing five assists. Some of our bigger, less-graceful bigs (Reuter and Salt) struggled some (five turnovers for the frame and numerous misses for Jack around the rim), but it was easy to look past with another half to go. All — or at least a lot — was right with the world.

The second half was a 180; a sudden storm blowing in and trashing the picnic. We didn’t score for eight minutes to open the frame, and when Kyle Guy finally got a jumper to go, ‘Cuse answered it with back-to-back threes and a John Gillon layup to finish the 19–2 run and go up by five. Syracuse was more lively and aggressive on both ends of the court in the second half, as though Boeheim saw what Battle did by himself in the first half, realized he could get more of that from both Battle and Andrew White — two of the explosive, athletic types we struggle to contain individually — and set them loose to just go get buckets. The two combined for 28 points in the frame, same as Virginia, and the game swung on their ability to get past our initial line of defense and find and make the shot they wanted. ‘Cuse put up a 145.7 efficiency mark for the half, shot 74% from the floor, and scored 44 points. It was bad. It felt worse.

Carelessness with the basketball kept this one from ever feeling secure. Turnovers plagued Virginia from the opening tip, and ‘Cuse ended up with 11 fast break points and 20 off of turnovers — numbers that will probably make CTB less than pleasant to live with for the rest of the weekend. Part of that was Syracuse’s defense resulting in, let’s say, interesting players making decisions with the ball (Jack Salt and Jarred Reuter combined for six turnovers), and some was just a team-wide hesitancy against the zone all game, but particularly in the second half.

Jack Salt has received a lot of praise in this space this season and deservedly so, but this wasn’t a game for him (or Jarred). Reuter getting 10 minutes in the first half and CTB going back to the well to both of them in the second was not my favorite move he’s ever made. Lineups featuring either were -13 in this one, while all others were +9.

There were things I liked about this (the Diakite resurrection, the Guy resurgence, Ty Jerome appearing in the Brogdon spot in our zone offense) and even more things I didn’t (London Perrantes not being put in a position to get more shots, either by lineup — by pairing him with Jerome or Thompson — by design, or by him just shooting, the terrible attempts at finishes around the rim, a long stint on the bench for Devon, CTB’s rotation stubbornness), but I’m going to leave the house and get this game out of my head for a while. Again, at least it’s nice to have another one in two days.

Louisville is up next. We’d better win, or Twitter is going to be (even more) terrible.

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