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    Virginia’s defense wraps up Syracuse in 73-66 win



    Syracuse, N.Y. ― The Syracuse Orange tried to rally, but a 23-point deficit was too much to overcome.

    The 11th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers held off the Orange for a 73-66 victory at the John Paul Jones Arena here in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

    With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Virginia led 50-27 and the Cavaliers still held a 57-35 advantage five minutes later.

    Virginia’s defense, which acts like plastic wrap, sticking, clinging and eventually smothering its opponents, had wrapped up the Orange for most of the day. But Syracuse scored 13-consecutive points to claw its way back into contention.

    The Orange had dug too big of a hole.

    The loss dropped Syracuse’s record to 10-6 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. Virginia improved to 11-3 for the year and 3-2 in the conference.

    Syracuse played without starting power forward Benny Williams, who missed the game due to a non-Covid illness. Williams, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, had started each of Syracuse’s first 15 games this season. He was averaging 8.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

    Joe Girard led the Orange with 19 points, while Judah Mintz added 18. Syracuse center Jesse Edwards struggled, finishing with four points on 2-for-5 shooting.

    Virginia’s Tony Bennett surpassed Terry Holland for the most wins in school history. Bennett’s teams are now 327-120 in his 14 seasons. Holland’s last game as Virginia’s coach was a loss to Syracuse in the 1990 NCAA Tournament.

    Virginia connected on 12 of its 26 attempts from 3-point range, falling just one shy of its season-high.

    After leading 35-26 at halftime, Virginia opened the second half with 12 unanswered points that eventually extended to a 15-1 run and a 50-27 lead.

    Syracuse didn’t make a field goal for the first five minutes of the second half.

    Virginia began the game red hot from 3-point range. The Cavaliers connected on five of their first six attempts from the 3-point line and jumped out to a 20-9 lead. Virginia guard Armaan Franklin made his first three attempts from beyond the arc.

    The Cavs extended their lead to 35-18 after a 10-2 run, but the Orange fought its way back into the game.

    Syracuse scored the last eight points of the half to close to within 35-26 at the break.

    Virginia’s vaunted pack-line defense effectively shut down Syracuse’s top three scorers ― Girard, Mintz and Edwards. Those three combined for 13 first-half points on 5-for-19 field goal shooting.

    Contact Mike Waters anytime: Email | Twitter

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