If Jim Boeheim is looking for any positive takeaways on the court, he will have a hard time finding one.
Despite the biggest crowd this season in all of college basketball, the 27,083 attendees could not push Syracuse (15-8, 4-6) past second-ranked Virginia (22-1, 11-0).
Coming off a disappointing 55-51 loss to Georgia Tech, Syracuse knew the path to the big dance was narrowing. The first team in their way was the red-hot Virginia Cavaliers. With the top-ranked defense in the country, the Cavaliers managed to reel off 13 straight wins and had yet to lose an ACC contest.
Syracuse did not fare much better than Virginia's last 13 opponents.
From the opening tip, the Cavaliers were in absolute control of the game. The one thing that has kept the Orange in games this season has been their patented 2-3 zone defense. Virginia took that advantage away. In the first half, the Hoos were able to penetrate the 2-3 zone and shot an impressive 50% from the field. On the other end of the floor, Syracuse put a meager 21 first half points for the second game in a row. The 'Cuse needed their second half to be their best half of the year if they wanted to upset Virginia.
Things only went downhill for Jim Boeheim's squad in the second half. Syracuse went from 15:19 to 8:50 without scoring a point. In that stretch, the Cavaliers went on a 12-0 run, pushing their lead to an enormous 21 points. The Orange managed to get the lead down to 11 but never came within striking distance. SU shot a horrendous 1-10 from three-point land in the second half. The final few minutes consisted of desperate shots by the Orange, as Virginia held on with ease for the 59-44 victory.
The separation between Syracuse and Virginia can be explained in a multitude of ways, but depth is by far the most obvious difference. The final stats showed that the Cavaliers had 27 bench points compared to zero for the Orange. Without freshman guard Howard Washington, who SU lost for the season after a right leg injury, Boeheim is down to only seven players who see anything other than garbage time minutes. Even backup center Bourama Sidibe, who has seen his playing time increase as of late, did not play a single minute against the Hoos. With a lack of depth and an offense that continues to sputter, Syracuse will have a tough time trying to finish out the regular season.
The Orange have to put this game in the rearview mirror, as they travel to Louisville to face the Cardinals in two days. Our coverage of the game begins with Countdown to Tip-off at 6:30, with a 7 o'clock tip, right here on WAER.