Syracuse basketball has tremendous guts in heart-breaking UVA setback

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports) /

There are no moral victories in sports, but how Syracuse basketball played against Virginia in the ACC Tournament’s quarterfinal round on Thursday afternoon was admirable and special.

Yes, the Orange would have almost assuredly punched its ticket to the 2021 Big Dance had it stunned the Cavaliers, which entered this contest as the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season champion in the 2020-21 campaign.

Earlier this season, UVA absolutely demolished the ‘Cuse in Charlottesville, Va., but this is a different Orange team now, and Syracuse basketball put up one heck of a fight in falling to the Cavaliers, 72-69, on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Virginia freshman guard Reece Beekman.

Beekman hadn’t connected on a single field goal all afternoon versus the ‘Cuse, but he drilled one when it counted the most. It proved a gut-wrenching way for Syracuse basketball to lose, but head coach Jim Boeheim in his post-game Zoom call with media members credited Beekman with coming up big at the end.

The No. 8 seed Orange (16-9) built up a double-digit advantage over UVA (18-6) in the first half, buoyed by the continued brilliant play of junior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim, who collected a career-high 31 points. But we all knew that the Cavaliers would not wilt in Greensboro, N.C.

Syracuse basketball competed at a high level despite the outcome against Virginia.

UVA managed to slice its deficit versus the ‘Cuse to a mere three points heading into halftime, and the Cavaliers quickly took the lead after intermission.

The Orange managed to hang around with Virginia, and this encounter was all tied up with about four minutes remaining. However, UVA players hit a couple of tough shots to go up by six points with around two minutes left.

At that juncture, I’m sure the bevy of Syracuse basketball fans figured this affair was over. Not so fast. The ‘Cuse full-court press helped enable the team to erase that margin, with the Cavaliers owning the last possession. Beekman drained the 3-pointer, and the Orange unfortunately exited the ACC Tournament.

Commentators, journalists and bracketologists alike love to talk about the eye test as it pertains to March Madness. Well, Syracuse basketball on Thursday afternoon played the No. 16 squad in the country even until that final possession. And on a neutral floor, I might add.

It’s a stinging result, for sure, but also an encouraging one for the ‘Cuse. Syracuse basketball players, suiting up against one the best defensive groups nationwide, limited their turnovers, shared the ball with precision, held their own on the glass, and forced Virginia into a bad shooting performance from deep.

“I can’t overstate how proud I am of this team,” Boeheim said, adding, “It was just a great effort.”

Hold your heads up high, Orange players, and let’s see what happens on Selection Sunday.

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