After Syracuse suffered an anemic 48-34 loss to Virginia in the season opener, coach Jim Boeheim said his team wouldn’t face a tougher defense all year “except for when we have to play them again.”
That moment arrives Saturday afternoon when the Orange (8-7, 1-3 ACC) travel to Charlottesville, Va., for the rematch against the No. 18 Cavaliers (11-3, 3-1).
“First of all, when we play them again, we have to move better than we did tonight,” Boeheim said after the Nov. 6 setback. “We did get some shots that I think we can make, and we did make. But a lot of the missed shots are just Virginia’s defense. … They’re very difficult to play against.”
Mustering its fewest points in Boeheim’s 44-year tenure, Syracuse shot just 23.6 percent from the field and 17.2 percent (5 of 29) from 3-point range. All of those missed shots helped Virginia amass a sizable 47-28 advantage on the boards.
The Orange are not alone, as the Cavaliers’ defense has been tough against everybody. Virginia has held nine opponents under 50 points — including four under 40 — and leads the nation in scoring defense (47.6 points) and field-goal defense (34.7 percent).
A sputtering offense has been the problem for the defending national champions, as the Cavaliers have already matched their total losses from the 2018-19 (35-3) and 2017-18 (31-3) seasons.
An undermanned Boston College squad missing two of its top three scorers handed visiting Virginia a 60-53 loss on Tuesday night. The Eagles finished the game with a 15-3 run and held the Cavaliers to 17 made field goals and three 3-pointers.
It was the sixth time Virginia made fewer than 20 shots in a game, including earlier losses to Purdue and South Carolina. It was the fifth time Virginia shot worse than 20 percent from behind the arc.
“I thought we were kind of lethargic in the beginning of the game,” sophomore point guard Kihei Clark said afterward. “Once you dig yourself that big of a hole … it’s harder to get back in it.”
The Cavaliers are 0-3 when trailing at halftime.
Syracuse is coming off a pair of tough home losses against Notre Dame (88-87) on Saturday and Virginia Tech (67-63) three days later.
Finding their footing after the stumbling start against the Cavaliers, the Orange average 73.7 points and nearly 10 made 3-pointers per game. They matched a school record with 15 threes against the Fighting Irish.
Syracuse sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim has made 55 3-pointers at a 40.7 percent clip and junior forward Elijah Hughes has knocked down 47 triples at 40.5 percent. They were a combined 4 for 18 from deep in the first meeting with Virginia.
For the Cavaliers, the 5-foot-9 Clark had a career-high 11 rebounds, 10 points and seven assists in the win at Syracuse. Senior forward Mamadi Diakite scored 12 points and 7-foot-1 junior Jay Huff tallied 11 points and 12 boards off the bench.
Virginia has won four straight against Syracuse and leads the series 8-5.
–Field Level Media