After beating Syracuse on the road earlier this season, No. 18 Virginia fell to the Orange (9-7, 2-3 ACC) in overtime Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers (11-4, 3-2 ACC) looked to have enough momentum late in the second half, but a trail of missed opportunities allowed Syracuse to tie the game 43-43 at the end of regulation. Virginia fell behind early in overtime while the Orange ignited offensively, recording enough three-point shots to run away with the lead.
Junior forward Jay Huff got the Cavaliers on the board first, continuing to lead the team throughout the game and finishing the day with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Huff’s physicality was apparent, particularly in the second half, when he worked eight offensive rebounds and recorded eight points.
Syracuse quickly jumped on a 7-3 run to take a 7-5 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining in the first half. Meanwhile, Virginia converted just two of seven field goals in the opening five minutes of the game, looking frustrated early on the scoring end.
Neither team fared much better offensively in the ensuing minutes, but the Cavaliers were able to regain the lead as senior forward Mamadi Diakite led a quick 4-0 run with 11:52 to go. The Orange had an answer, however, tying the score 9-9 with two free throws by junior forward Marek Dolezaj.
Tied at 11, junior forward Elijah Hughes scored back-to-back three-pointers to help Syracuse secure the lead. Senior guard Braxton Key, Diakite and Huff added points to cut the deficit, and the Orange led 17-15 with under five minutes to go in the half.
Virginia failed to create any significant opportunities through the rest of the period and were only able to string together five points through a three by sophomore guard Kihei Clark and a Huff signature dunk as the buzzer sounded.
Syracuse led 24-20 heading into halftime after freshman guard Joseph Girard III and Hughes led the Orange with eight points apiece. Clark, Diakite and Huff each recorded six points for the Cavaliers, but the team shot a disappointing 30.8 percent from the field and was just 2-for-11 from behind the arc while allowing nine turnovers in the first half alone.
Junior forward Bourama Sidibe and Hughes led Syracuse with a combined six points to start the second half while Clark sunk his third three of the game. The Orange found themselves in a dangerous position as Dolezaj and Sidibe faced foul trouble with four each, allowing Virginia to turn on the jets and jump on an 8-0 run to go ahead 31-30 close to the 14-minute mark. Junior guard Tomas Woldetensae and Key scored back-to-back threes and Huff followed with a layup as Cavalier fans jumped to their feet.
Virginia continued to apply pressure as Huff and Clark scored points inside the paint, extending the unanswered run to 12 points. Around the 10-minute mark, Dolezaj converted a pair of free throws and Girard added a three to tie the score 35-35.
Sidibe committed his fifth foul with 6:11 on the clock, forcing him out of the game. Meanwhile, the teams continued to trade points as Hughes sunk his third three-pointer and Huff slammed yet another impressive dunk. The score stayed even at 39-39 as the game entered its final four minutes.
As both teams played with a sense of urgency, the game was a back-and-forth battle to the finish. Tied at 43 and with under a minute remaining in regulation, each team took shots from behind the arc, but as neither found netting, the game headed into overtime.
Throughout overtime, both sides found greater success in shooting. Diakite snagged the first points with a quick layup, but Hughes, Girard and sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim responded with three pointers to give Syracuse a 52-45 lead with 3:21 to go.
Leading 54-49, Boeheim silenced the crowd at 1:19, launching the ball from an incredible distance and banking an improbable shot as the shot clock zeroed. Girard quickly added another three-pointer to further turn the knife, giving the Orange an 11-point lead with under a minute remaining.
While Diakite and Woldetensae each buried three-pointers in the final minute, Virginia couldn’t catch up, losing its second-straight game by a score of 63-55.
“There are certain things you can’t control and that is the message,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “Learn from it, try to control what you can control and don’t hang your head but don’t think this is a fluke. Look at it for what it is. We have to get better and we have to stick together.”
Virginia travels to Tallahassee, Fla. to face Florida State Wednesday at 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.