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UVA Basketball: Big Three dominates Syracuse in stunning shooting display

UVA basketballHeading into Monday’s UVA basketball contest with Syracuse, there was reason to believe Kyle Guy could be in for a big night.

The junior guard had made 13 threes in three career games against the Orange and knocked down eight threes in the past two games — three against Georgia Tech last Wednesday and five against Pittsburgh over the weekend.

But what the sharpshooter did against the Orange goes beyond qualifiers such as “big” or even “huge.”

Kyle Guy on Monday night was devastating. Outstanding. Sublime. Marvelous. Think of an adjective and then think of a better one, and that’s what he was.

So was the rest of his team.

Guy dumped in 25 points with eight made three-pointers on 10 attempts, De’Andre Hunter stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks, and Ty Jerome posted 16 points and dished out a career-high 14 assists — tied for the most ever for a Virginia player — in his home state as Virginia pummeled Syracuse 79-53 in upstate New York.

Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone, which has overwhelmed so many opponents in Jim Boeheim’s storied career, was overwhelmed itself. After a tight first half, Virginia’s three-point barrage helped the visitors bury the Orange to the tune of a 47-19 second-half thrashing.

“They shot the ball as good as I’ve ever seen it shot, put it that way,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game

Boeheim was right: The stunning outside shooting performance was a historic one. Virginia’s 18 threes are the most in program history against an ACC opponent and tied the team’s all-time record — the Cavaliers also hit 18 triples in a 2007 contest against Gonzaga. Syracuse, meanwhile, found itself on the wrong side of its own history: The 18 triples are the most from an opposing team against Boeheim’s Orange in Carrier Dome history.

Jerome, Guy and Hunter went a combined 18 for 23 from behind the arc, and the team finished 18 of 25 on the night.

The second-half explosion was primarily brought on by the three-pointer, but it was hardly the only factor. After allowing Syracuse to win the first half 34-32, the Cavaliers clamped down on the defensive end, matching the Orange’s biggest strength — outstanding length and athleticism — with a similarly long, athletic group. For over 13 straight minutes, Tony Bennett paired his three stars with 6-foot-9 Mamadi Diakite and 7-foot-1 Jay Huff.

That lineup worked wonders. The hosts’ offensive rebounds, second-chance points and points in the paint all dipped in the second half. Virginia won the rebounding battle by seven in the second half after losing it by five in the first.

Most importantly, in the nearly 13-and-a-half minutes that Jerome, Guy, Hunter, Diakite and Huff shared the floor in the second half, Virginia went from down 37-40 to up 77-49.

“Obviously, it was the shooting,” Bennett said. “But it was the stops that made the difference. They might have missed a couple of open shots, but we didn’t give them second chance points. We went with some good length. We had Jay Huff and Mamadi down low, and Mamadi did a good job when he had to guard [Syracuse forward Marek Dolezaj] … That paired with the way we were executing our offense really made the difference.”

Being able to shoot over a zone is one thing, but being able to shoot over the top and then pair that with an inside presence is another. In the first half, the Cavaliers proved they could do the former by hitting 8 of 12 deep balls in the opening 20 minutes, yet they found themselves trailing at halftime due to putrid inside shooting (2 of 10) and eight turnovers, most of which came when the visitors tried to get the ball inside against the long-limbed Orange.

“We just talked about some stats — the eight offensive rebounds that we gave up and the eight turnovers — and said, ‘Let’s get this thing to how we have to play,’” Bennett said of the team’s halftime adjustments. “And it wasn’t fire and brimstone or anything like that. I was just telling them that we need to get after it, and we need to play ball. We had to get tougher defensively, and we had to clean up a couple of those areas and battle. It was similar to a lot of halftime speeches.”

After getting significant contributions up and down the rotation over the last three games, Virginia’s lead trio was phenomenal Monday night, outscoring Syracuse by themselves 62-53.

“Those guys were terrific in the second half,” Bennett said. “There were probably three or four incredibly deep threes. I think that Kyle was looking at the ground when he shot those. That was impressive. And then to have all three of them get that hot was good.”

When Syracuse desperately tried to stop them, they easily found Diakite and Huff for a variety of finishes — from tough Diakite layups to a thunderous Huff dunk that brought on the reserves — as the visitors ran away with things in a hurry. After scoring two points in the paint in the first half, the visitors had 16 in the second half. The ball movement was crisp and the Orange defense helpless. Virginia dished out 15 assists on 18 made second-half shots.

“We had no answers for it,” Boeheim said bluntly. It’s hard to imagine any team could.

Once the Cavaliers caught fire, they simply couldn’t be stopped. Jerome hit a three from near the gigantic “S” logo at the center of Syracuse’s court. Guy knocked down multiple deep threes with at least a hand or two in his face. At one point, Virginia knocked down 10 of 11 threes. Boeheim called two timeouts in rapid succession trying desperately to slow his opponent.

But he could have had all the timeouts in the world. It wouldn’t have made a difference. The Cavaliers weakened Syracuse’s will, one buried three after another.

Minutes after Syracuse looked like it could pull off a Senior Night upset, the home crowd — or what was left of it — had to settle for cheering on the senior walk-ons for the final minutes.

Several opposing coaches have described Virginia as a championship-caliber team this year, just about the highest praise an opponent can give. Boeheim was the latest to do it.

“I have a lot of respect for Virginia; it’s probably their best team that I have seen by a lot,” Boeheim said. “They’re really good. … I think they’re a great team. They have a great chance to be a national championship type team.”

Against Syracuse, though, Virginia exceeded that phrase.

Devastating. Dominant. Undefendable. Give it any adjective you want. The Cavaliers were that and more Monday.

Story by Zach Pereles

augusta free press
augusta free press