Interior game does ‘enough,’ lifts Syracuse to 63-55 OT win against No. 18 Virginia

first_img Published on January 11, 2020 at 9:49 pm Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarez Facebook Twitter Google+ CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Tony Bennett was content with his team’s 16 offensive rebounds. Virginia muscled their way inside, and the pairing of Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff —  who Elijah Hughes referred to as “twin towers” postgame — disrupted Syracuse fast breaks. The Cavaliers, expectedly, controlled every metric that gauged interior play against an Orange team which routinely loses the battle near the rim.Rebounds (47 to 44), points in the paint (20 to 12) and second-chance buckets (10 to four) all went in UVA’s favor. Virginia finished with six more shots than SU, and in any other game, it would’ve been enough when overtime was needed to decide a winner. But Bennett’s counterpart, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim, was also pleased with his team’s performance inside the arc. And when they caught fire from outside, eventually pulling away 63-55, it was built off of interior success. “We won the game just because we battled them inside,” Boeheim said. “We got enough. They scored in there, but we got enough to stay in the game or stay a little bit ahead.” The last time these two teams met in their season-openers, UVA had a plus-19 rebounding differential. Paired with a historically-poor offensive performance, Syracuse’s season was knocked off-kilter from the opening tip. Just over two months later, needing a win against the defending national champions to stay above .500, SU (9-7, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) hurled bodies into the paint, disrupted shots and triggered scrums for the ball, stagnating the Cavaliers (11-4, 3-2) offense. SU hauled 44 boards — their second-highest single game total. Their two other best rebounding performances came against Niagara (46) and Bucknell (42). AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse’s season-long ailment, if just for one night against an elite opponent, helped deliver a potential season-altering win. If two home losses to Notre Dame and Virginia Tech threatened to knock the campaign off-kilter, then the Orange’s interior prowess propped them upright. From the opening whistle, Syracuse dedicated more bodies in the lane. Guards denied passes into the high-post, and forwards made sure when the ball did breach the arc, UVA had no room to operate. Bourama Sidibe, SU’s center, initiated a jump-ball on the first possession by nearly wrestling the ball away from Huff. Howard Washington said the Orange played more compact inside. Boeheim described it as “tighter” than usual. Virginia’s offense was limited to flick-passes along the perimeter. Postgame, Bennett would say his team may have over-passed at times. When Diakite caught it inside, he was instantaneously doubled on multiple possessions. The score inched higher, and neither team established an edge.“Guys were trying to help me a little bit,” Sidibe said. “I was more active today. I was staying back and took a lot.”UVA earned a few shots inside, its talent shining through in moments. Diakite – who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds – rotated baseline and converted a few jumpers over Marek Dolezaj. But when Virginia looked to the same action on the last possession of regulation, SU snuffed it out and forced overtime. In just his fifth start of the year, the 7-foot-1 Huff still wrecked the Orange inside. He finished with 16 points and 10 boards, including a highlight ball-fake and right-handed dunk that Sidibe has fallen for repeatedly this season. Sidibe and Dolezaj fought for every miss, their 20 combined rebounds besting Diakite and Huff’s 19. Many were tipped repeatedly, limiting transition opportunities on both ends. On the first possession of the second half, Sidibe lunged out of bounds and smacked a loose rebound back in play. The sequence lead to a Sidibe lay-in on the other end, assisted by Dolezaj. “It was a tremendous, gritty effort for the whole game battling,” Boeheim said. The cost of physical play was foul trouble. Freshman Quincy Guerrier totaled three off the bench in his first 13 minutes, two of which came on rebounding plays. With Syracuse leading by seven early in the second half, Sidibe committed his fourth and was subbed out. Virginia promptly responded with an 8-0 run, adding four more points when Dolezaj was subbed out for freshman Jesse Edwards. Boeheim called two timeouts during a six-and-a-half minute scoreless stretch for SU, and subbed the starters back in. “If we’re gonna win,” Boeheim said, “(Sidibe and Dolezaj) have to play (with four fouls). We’re gonna lose if we don’t put them back in.” At times this season, Syracuse fell apart in the second half when Sidibe infractions forced lineup changes. Saturday, in a hostile environment, and against a much more capable team, the whistles blew, but the foundation of SU’s 2-3 held together for just long enough. In overtime, Virginia attempted four of its eight shots from inside the paint. The Orange won the board battle 4-to-1 in overtime, three of which were followed by 3-pointers. They kept scrambling and, during a game where points were at a premium, earned the possessions needed for an overtime explosion.“When I get a fourth foul, I try to play a little bit less aggressive sometime,” Sidibe said. “But tonight I said, ‘I’m gonna go for it. I’m gonna keep playing.’”  Commentslast_img

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