After a recent Virginia win, coach Tony Bennett said it always helps “when you stick a few threes” against a zone defense. Apparently when you stick a lot of them, it does more than help – it rips apart the opponent’s zone completely.
That’s what happened Monday night as UVA shredded Syracuse’s usually stingy zone with 18 3-pointers in a 79-53 victory. That shooting display left the crowd at the Carrier Dome stunned. Orange fans went from cheers to groans to silence as the Hoos continued to bomb away from deep.
“As good as I’ve seen,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They shot the ball as good as I’ve ever seen it shot, put it that way.”
Boeheim’s right. That’s the most made 3’s in an ACC game ever for the Hoos and they matched the school record from a 2007 game against Gonzaga with the 18 triples. The visitors weren’t just haphazardly firing up long-range shots to reach that total, however, and that’s what made the performance truly remarkable. The Cavaliers made 8 of 12 treys in the first half and then followed up with a 10 of 13 encore in the second half. That’s a sizzling 72% night from 3-point range, including an amazing 76.92% in the second half.
To put some of that into perspective, consider that Cuse entered the game ranked 23rd nationally in defensive efficiency at 0.926 points per possession (ppp) allowed per TeamRankings.com. The Orange have been even better in the dome at 0.864 ppp. They had allowed just 31.1% shooting from 3-point range prior to Monday’s game, a number that dropped to 29.7% in home games.
The Cavaliers just ripped those numbers apart. In the end, they missed more layups (8) than 3’s (7). It was really just that kind of shooting night.
“Those guys were terrific in the second half,” Bennett said of his team. “There were probably three or four incredibly deep threes. … And then to have all three of them [Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter] get that hot was good and then they combined it with really good defense in the second half. … It’s a terrific zone and we just had our night tonight against it. And they were a little off offensively, but that’s not to take away from the second half and the way our guys played there. It’s hard to beat a team when a team is clicking that way with not just one guy, but three guys.”
Guy led the 3-point shooting barrage with 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting from downtown. That set a new career high for made triples and was just one off the school record set by Curtis Staples with 9. Guy, who led the team with 7 rebounds too, moved into fourth on UVA’s career list for made 3-pointers. He now has 228, passing Sean Singletary (222) and J.R. Reynolds (221).
Not to be outdone, Hunter also set a new career high with 5 3-pointers on the night. He finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and a career-high 3 blocked shots.
Jerome, meanwhile, picked apart Syracuse’s defense in two ways. Like his backcourt counterparts, he lit it up from 3-point range with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from outside the arc. When he wasn’t hurting the zone that way, Jerome sparked things with his passing. He set a new career high and tied a school record with 14 assists.
Once all three players got going, it spelled trouble for the hosts. That trio combined for 30 of the team’s 32 points in the first half and kept it going the rest of the way to post 62 combined points. UVA also got 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots from Mamadi Diakite.
“We went into the game wanting to make them drive, get them off the three point line. We didn’t do that,” Boeheim said. “When you let Guy and Jerome shoot those shots they’re going to make them. We just did a very poor job of getting them off the line and they took advantage of it. I think they’re a great team. They have a great chance to be a national championship type team. The first half we did everything as well as we could do, and our defense was good. The second half, our defense broke down and we allowed them to shoot, and they’re going to make shots.”
While Boeheim thought his defense fizzled in the second half, UVA tightened up on the other end. After giving up 34 points with 8 offensive rebounds and 5 3-pointers in the first half, Virginia dialed in its defense for the final 20 minutes. The Orange went from shooting 38.7% (38.46% from 3-point range) in the first half to just 26.92% (25% from 3-point range) in the second half. The Cavaliers posted 6 of their 8 blocked shots and 5 of their 7 steals in the second half too.
Tyus Battle, Elijah Hughes, and Buddy Boeheim led Syracuse with 11 points each. Battle made just 5 of 19 shots overall, while the Hoos slowed Boeheim down in the second half when he made just 1 of 6 attempts.
That defense helped UVA turn a 43-42 deficit five minutes into the second half into the 26-point rout over the final 15 minutes. The Cavaliers closed the game on a 37-10 surge.
“Obviously, it was the shooting, but it was the stops that made the difference [in the two halves],” Bennett said. “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 were collectively good. That paired with the way we were executing our offense really made the difference.”
“I’d say we played really well and they just took over and dominated the game in the second half,” Jim Boeheim said. “They shot it well and their defense picked up. We had no answers for it.”