Syracuse (15-9, 7-4 ACC) went on an impressive 19-2 run to open the second half and stole Saturday’s basketball game from No. 9 Virginia (17-5, 7-3 ACC), 66-62. The contest was semi-reminiscent of the two ACC team’s Elite Eight matchup last year.
In that heartbreaker a season ago, the Cavaliers held a 35-21 lead at the break but were outscored 47-27 the rest of the way, including 30-11 over the final 10 minutes. The Orange secured a 68-62 victory and advanced to a sixth Final Four.
Saturday, after going on an 11-2 run that extended its lead to 34-22 by intermission, Virginia experienced another of its lengthy dry spells. The Cavaliers hadn’t scored a single point in the second half until freshman guard Kyle Guy knocked down a jumper at the 12:51 mark to give his team a 36-33 advantage.
Finishing in double figures for the first time since Dec. 31 against Florida State, Guy tallied a team-high 14 points Saturday. He ended his slump from behind the arc, hitting on four of six looks.
Syracuse responded to Guy’s bucket with two huge threes in a near 30-second span — the first from senior guard Andrew White III at 12:29, and the second from sophomore stretch-four Tyler Lydon at 11:58. It was Lydon’s only trifecta of the afternoon and three of his six points.
Gaining control then, the Orange — which still hasn’t lost at home in ACC play — held off a late Virginia run by getting in the paint and to the charity stripe.
A lopsided free-throw margin is becoming a trend, and referees can’t be entirely to blame. It’s an indication that the Cavaliers aren’t attacking downhill, and that they’re lacking a forward like Anthony Gill who — with his back to the basket — had the patience and the footwork to draw contact.
Syracuse sunk 13 of its 20 free throws Saturday compared to Virginia’s two-of-five from the line.
Off an inbounds play with 1:12 left, senior London Perrantes hit what looked like a momentum-swinging three in the corner, cutting the Cavalier deficit to 60-59. But on the other end, senior guard John Gillon attacked his defender’s hip, blew by and hit a short jumper to extend the Orange’s margin to three.
Gillon finished with six points and a team-high four assists, while White III and freshman guard Tyus Battle carried the load with 23 points each. They shot a combined 14 of 25 from the field and six of 14 from downtown.
Hitting on 23 of 42 attempts from the floor, Syracuse made just one fewer bucket than Virginia and took eight fewer shots. The Orange beat the Cavaliers at their own game — offensive efficiency.
Although Virginia made 12 of its 24 three-point attempts, coach Tony Bennett’s team turned the basketball over 15 times and lost the battle at the line. Perrantes, freshman guard Ty Jerome, junior forward Isaiah Wilkins, and redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite added 11, nine, nine and eight points, respectively.
A reliable scorer for much of the season, junior guard Marial Shayok scored just two points Saturday on one-of-seven shooting.
Virginia will return to John Paul Jones Arena in a rematch Monday with No. 6 Louisville.