Syracuse Basketball: Slow start, turnovers doom Orange at No. 11 Virginia

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /

In its last two games, both on the road, Syracuse basketball has compiled a whopping 31 turnovers. Against struggling Louisville last Tuesday night, the Orange had 15 miscues, but the Cardinals had a ridiculous 21 turnovers, and the ‘Cuse was able to squeak away with a one-point win.

On Saturday from John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va., Syracuse basketball again was sloppy with the ball, committing 16 turnovers versus No. 11 Virginia, a group that year after year is excellent on defense under head coach Tony Bennett.

By the way, Bennett, who guided UVA to a national championship in 2019, is now the all-time winningest head coach at Virginia, and he’s just a fabulous coach and an even better person.

In any event, when playing on the road against one of the best squads in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Orange realistically can’t expect to emerge victorious when it commits 16 turnovers.

And before some ‘Cuse fans do their usual trashing of senior shooting guard Joe Girard III on social media, I’d like to point out that Girard only had one miscue, whereas multiple other Syracuse basketball players committed three or more turnovers in a 73-66 loss to UVA that snapped a two-game winning streak for the Orange.

Syracuse basketball made a massive comeback against No. 11 Virginia on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough.

The Cavaliers (11-3, 3-2 in the ACC) are so good on defense, and oftentimes quite efficient on offense, that falling down by a count of 20-9 with about 12 minutes to go in the first half was a recipe for disaster for the ‘Cuse.

What’s more, with roughly four minutes remaining before halftime, Syracuse basketball was trailing UVA, 35-18, and I figured this ACC clash was over at that juncture.

However, much like the Orange (10-6, 3-2) did versus Pittsburgh at home in December, Syracuse basketball clawed its way back, going on an 8-0 spurt to close the gap to 35-26 at the break.

After the intermission, though, the Cavaliers stretched their edge to as many as 23 points. Yet the ‘Cuse didn’t throw in the towel. In the second part of the second half, Virginia went cold from the field, and Syracuse basketball was able to get within seven points at this contest’s conclusion (and cover the spread).

All in all, UVA scored 23 points off of the Orange’s 16 turnovers. Additionally, Virginia held a 19-4 advantage in fast-break points. That simply won’t do, and to me, these statistics were the difference in the ballgame.

Syracuse basketball actually outrebounded UVA, 37-30. Both teams shot well from long distance, although the Cavaliers connected on four more 3-pointers than the ‘Cuse.

Sophomore forward Benny Williams didn’t suit up in this league affair due to illness, according to SU Athletics. Replacing him in the starting rotation was redshirt junior forward John Bol Ajak, although he didn’t do much.

Girard led the way with 19 points, and he was excellent from 3-point land. However, inside the arc, Girard was awful. Freshman point guard Judah Mintz tallied 18 points. Senior guard Symir Torrence, who didn’t play in the Louisville game, produced five assists in just 13 minutes.

With Williams not available, freshman forward Maliq Brown and freshman wing Justin Taylor each received extended minutes. Both Brown and Taylor grew up near the UVA campus. Brown generated 10 points, eight boards, two steals and one block.

Taylor, meanwhile, scored seven points. He also had two rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block. Senior center Jesse Edwards had 10 boards, while sophomore center Mounir Hima boasted six rebounds and four blocks.

Prior to this encounter at Virginia, Syracuse basketball had won seven of eight. With this setback, the Orange is just 6-12 in its all-time series versus the Cavaliers.

Up next, Syracuse basketball is back on the Hill, as the ‘Cuse and Virginia Tech will compete at the JMA Wireless Dome on Wednesday, Jan. 11, beginning at 7 pm and airing on regional sports networks.

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