Syracuse Splits with Wake Forest and Virginia—Regular Season Finale Ahead
After losing back-to-back games for the first time in ACC play, Syracuse looked to get back on track when they took on Wake Forest and #2 Virginia this week.
The Orange traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Saturday to square off against Wake Forest. Syracuse used a 14-4 run, capped off by a jumper by Tyus Battle, to take a 20-11 lead with 12:02 left in the first half. The Orange built their largest advantage of the opening stanza, 34-20, when Marek Dolezaj converted a layup off an assist from Frank Howard with 5:09 remaining in the opening stanza. The Demon Deacons rattled off a 10-4 spurt to pull within eight, 38-30, at the break. Wake Forest got the closest they would in the final twenty minutes when Sharone Wright Jr. dropped in a layup to make it 40-35 Syracuse with 19:14 to go. The Demon Deacons would get no closer the rest of the way. Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 60-37 lead when he capped off the decisive 20-2 run with a layup assisted by Howard with 11:17 to play. The Orange coasted to a 79-54 victory over Wake Forest.
Syracuse shot 54.4-percent from the field and held the Demon Deacons to just 32.7-percent shooting. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone forced Wake Forest into 23 turnovers, which led to Syracuse outscoring the Demon Deacons 27-15 in points off turnovers.
Wake Forest was led by Chaundee Brown who scored 14 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, and grabbed six rebounds. Brown also dished out two assists and came away with two steals. Isaiah Mucius came off the bench and finished with 10 points and three rebounds in the losing effort.
Battle paced the Orange with 21 points, on 9-of-13 from the floor, three rebounds, and five steals. Hughes added 18 points, on 8-of-12 from the field, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Monday night to celebrate Senior Night in their final regular season home game against #2 Virginia. Seniors Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu, along with walk-on seniors Adrian Autry, Antonio Balandi, and Ky Feldman, were honored before the game. Chukwu may be granted a medical hardship waiver as a result of the eye surgery which ended his sophomore season prematurely. If approved, he may return to the team next season.
The Orange entered halftime with a 34-32 advantage over the Cavaliers as Howard drained a triple with 42 seconds left in the opening stanza. With Syracuse clinging to a 43-42 lead following a three-pointer by Battle with 15:09 left on the clock, De’Andre Hunter drilled a trey on the ensuing possession to spark an 11-0 run for Virginia. Kyle Guy gave the Cavaliers a double-digit lead, 53-43, when he knocked down a three of his own at the 10:29 mark. Buddy Boeheim pulled the Orange within seven, 53-46, with 9:45 remaining in the game, but that was the closest Syracuse would get the rest of the way. Virginia outscored the Orange 26-7 down the stretch and claimed a 79-53 win that sent most of the 29,052 in attendance packing before the final buzzer.
The Cavaliers shot 54.9-percent from the floor, including a blistering 72-percent from beyond the arc. The Dome Effect did nothing to stymie Virginia, as the Cavaliers connected on a school record 18 threes on just 25 attempts. Syracuse shot a dreadful 33.3-percent from the floor and converted ten fewer tries from distance than Virginia did as they connected on just 8-of-25 of their attempts from three-point range.
Virginia’s “Big Three” of Guy, Hunter, and Ty Jerome, combined for 78.5-percent of the team’s scoring. Guy led the Cavaliers with 25 points, on 8-of-10 from deep, seven rebounds, and two assists. Hunter contributed with 21 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Jerome posted a double-double with 16 points and 14 assists. Jerome also corralled three rebounds and came away with three steals.
The Orange were led by Battle, Hughes, and Boeheim who chipped in with 11 points apiece. Battle collected five rebounds, while Hughes grabbed three steals.
For the third time in as many tries, Syracuse lost a game against a top-five team in which they led at halftime. The Orange will need to play for an entire 40-minutes if they want to make another deep run in March.
With the loss, Syracuse fell to 19-11 overall and 10-7 in the ACC. The Orange are tied for sixth in the league, but hold the tiebreaker over Louisville for the #6 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
Player of the Week: Elijah Hughes
This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Elijah Hughes. Hughes averaged 14.5 points, on 61.1-percent from the field, and four rebounds per game this week. The East Carolina transfer’s efficiency and aggressiveness will be a key if the Orange hope to be a factor in the postseason.
Up Next: Clemson
Syracuse will look to close out the regular season on a high note when they travel to South Carolina to battle with Clemson on Saturday. Tip-off is set for noon and the game can be seen on CBS. The Tigers are 17-12, 7-9 in the ACC and are coming off a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to North Carolina. Clemson travels to Notre Dame on Wednesday before returning home to host the Orange in their regular season finale. Syracuse hopes to sweep the season series from the Tigers as the Orange defeated Clemson 61-53 at the Carrier Dome on January 9th. The Tigers are led by Marcquise Reed who is averaging 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and three assists per contest.