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The possession unfolded exactly how Syracuse would want it to. Buddy Boeheim dribbled the ball upcourt with 40 seconds left. Jesse Edwards, the Orange’s primary screener, floated nearby for a pick. If Virginia doubled Buddy after the pick, he’d have a lane to hit Edwards on the roll. If the Cavaliers didn’t double, then Buddy could have an opening for a shot — though that was the less likely scenario, given how UVA defended Buddy with a pair of players and often created a “four-on-three advantage” for SU, head coach Jim Boeheim said postgame.
Still, it gave the Orange a chance to get the ball in their best shooter’s hands, the one that almost single-handedly pulled them within striking distance after erasing a 12-point deficit in the first half. UVA doubled after the screen. Edwards rolled. Buddy dished him the pass, and then an opportunity opened up — Cole Swider, perched on the left wing, now open because of the attention drawn by Edwards. The center snapped the pass over, but Swider’s 3 bounced long, keeping Virginia’s lead at 72-69. And when Joe Girard III was called for a foul on the rebound, it gave the Cavaliers possession and the opportunity to drain additional time off the clock.
In a game where Syracuse had left itself no room for mistakes, that final missed shot by Swider slammed shut any window for a comeback.
Kihei Clark drained two foul shots to extend UVA’s lead to 74-69, and that’s where everything settled when the desperation fouls and heaves by the Orange expired with the final horn. The Cavaliers (8-5, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) held SU to 37% shooting and took advantage of all seven 3-pointers they had against the Orange’s zone. Syracuse (7-6, 1-1 ACC) failed to complete its first three-game winning streak of the season, dropping its first ACC game of the season and providing an example of what could happen when the points in the paint don’t emerge in bunches. Jimmy Boeheim shot 7-for-18 from the field, Swider went 3-for-12, and “you don’t need to look any further than that,” Boeheim said.
“We’re not winning if those guys don’t make some more shots than that,” he added.
Because of how defenses have guarded Buddy, those close-range shots are vital in the formula that equates to SU wins this season. The Cavaliers doubled him on most possessions, like defenses have done throughout the season, and he listened for the player who shouts “double, double” — the signal that someone is coming to double-team him. The SU guard will then search for who yelled that. But eventually, Boeheim said postgame, he told Buddy to not run a ball-screen because the Orange couldn’t convert the wide-open looks that ensued.
“We got as much as we could expect from Jimmy and as much as we could expect from Buddy,” Boeheim said. “You’re not gonna win with two guys.”
For the 11th time in 13 games, Jimmy scored Syracuse’s opening points, but it came much later than the opening possession. Virginia had already built a 7-0 lead by the time he connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing following an SU offensive rebound. The first two UVA baskets came via Jayden Gardner — one cutting toward the right block from the high post, the other capitalizing off a sequence where Edwards backed his defender down before trying to kick it out to Jimmy and turning it over instead.
We’re not winning if those guys don’t make some more shots than that.
Jim Boeheim on Cole Swider and Jimmy Boeheim
Sequences like those captured the offensive struggles for SU over the opening portion of the first half, where the Orange’s first three made shots all came from behind the arc. Unlike against Georgetown and Cornell, when it topped 40 points in the paint, SU was unable to produce inside, with its first interior basket coming when Buddy hit a jumper with seven minutes left in the opening half.
During that time, Virginia hit its first 3-pointers to open up a 13-6 lead. Kadin Shedrick corralled a loose ball in the paint after Swider tipped it and found Armaan Franklin in the opposite corner after he faked his SU defender into the air and then adjusted. Then Clark connected, this one wide-open from the top of the arc.
Saturday, Buddy said, was the fourth different style of Virginia offense that he’s faced in his four years at Syracuse. This time, UVA “overloaded the bottom” with one player on the block and another in the high post, he added. And when missed rotations added up, including three that UVA turned into open layups ahead of halftime, its shooting percentage soared to 53% for the game and 63% in the second half.
“They just run so many different sets that I’ve never seen before against any other team, really,” Buddy said.
Those shots built the foundation of the Cavaliers’ lead that they never relinquished until Jimmy dunked with 13:27 left in the second half, drew a foul, pumped both fists and roared underneath the basket. By that point, SU had done enough to crawl back into the game, eliminating a double-digit deficit instead of watching one of its own slowly fade away like in past games. Virginia, though, continued to find answers. Reece Beekman — the hero of last year’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal with his buzzer-beating 3 — pushed an offensive rebound while elevating over Swider, and then Shedrick collected a no-look pass from Clark before turning it into an and-one. That was the third foul on Edwards, and the fourth came minutes later.
After Jimmy helped SU briefly erase the deficit, the game settled into a back-and-forth flow for the remaining 12 minutes. Buddy, who finished with a game-high 27 points, continually kept the Orange within striking distance with deep 3-pointers and shots off the dribble. Heading into the under-4 timeout, Buddy trailed the fast break that Swider led, with the Villanova transfer trying to split a pair of Virginia defenders near the basket. The ball was poked away, but Symir Torrence grabbed possession and flipped a pass to an open Buddy near the arc — where he drilled a 3 that pulled the Orange within one possession.
But SU couldn’t break free from Virginia’s responses, especially when so many shots of its own didn’t fall. Jimmy and Swider combined to shoot 6-for-18 in the second frame, and the former missed four of his first five shots to start the half. After Buddy’s 3 off the broken transition play, Clark responded with a deep shot of his own. He’d hit three of their seven 3s, facilitated on eight of the Cavaliers’ other baskets, but in the end, it was those two late free throws, and the four missed SU 3-pointers in the final 84 seconds, that made the difference.
“We can’t miss all those shots and beat a team,” Boeheim said. “When we’re allowing them to shoot 60%?”
“No. Can’t do that.”
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