Virginia Grabs Road Win At Syracuse To Open 2022

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Virginia is 2-1 in the ACC.
Armaan Franklin knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to help Virginia top Syracuse. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

The Virginia basketball team has gotten off to slow starts somewhat frequently this season, but got going quickly in the first game of the New Year. The Hoos combined that better start with a strong finishing kick to claim a 74-69 road victory at Syracuse on Saturday. UVA improved to 5-2 at Cuse with the win.

For a team with many new faces playing in the Carrier Dome and against the Orange zone for the first time, it was a great way to kick off 2022.

“We prepared well, we prepared hard,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “It probably helped us to have – we had four practices, a couple of guys only got two, but four practices and you don’t always get that to prepare for something that’s a little uncharacteristic, that you don’t see, that zone. So I think that helped us out. We tried to add some wrinkles, whether it was defensively or different things, and just be as ready as we could.”

The Cavaliers had a chance to build some confidence early thanks to the good start. They made 5 of 7 shots to open the game with a 13-6 lead. Jayden Gardner, Armaan Franklin, and Kihei Clark were all in on the opening act. Gardner scored twice in the paint and Franklin made his first two 3-pointers, while Clark added a triple as well during the early flurry. The teams traded blows for a few minutes after that, but some timely contributions from Taine Murray and Kody Stattmann midway through the first half pushed Virginia further ahead. Murray’s 3-pointer at the 10:01 mark made it 20-13 and Stattmann scored 4 straight points that grew it to 25-13 at 7:36.

That balanced scoring effort in the first 15 minutes turned out to be a precursor. The Hoos ended up with four players in double figures, which matched their best outing of the season. That helped overcome some first half foul trouble for Gardner and gave the team enough inside-out scoring punch against the Syracuse zone. Gardner started the interior work with some plays around the ACC logo in the opening minutes. He worked his way to 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. The visitors also got a big night from Kadin Shedrick as he tied his career high with 12 points and set a new career high with 11 rebounds. He stressed the zone along the baseline with some dunks and pulled in 4 offensive rebounds to get extra opportunities too.

Clark and Franklin led the way with 17 points each as they keyed the majority of the outside offense with a trio of triples each. Clark added 8 assists and 4 rebounds to his line to offset 4 turnovers; he also frustrated Joe Girard III defensively with 1 blocked shot officially, but Girard had just 3 points for the game. Franklin had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals too. Franklin jumpstarted the outside shooting with the pair of early 3-pointers, which allowed him to shake off an extended shooting slump. He had knocked down just 2 3’s in the previous six games, which added up to a 2-28 shooting stretch. He finished 3 of 9 against Syracuse.

“I mean it always helps when your first couple of shots go down,” Franklin said. “I’ve not been shooting it well lately, but you’re not going to come out of a shooting slump by not shooting it. You’ve got to keep going, keep putting the work, and hopefully it pays off and today it kind of did.”

Clark, who had season highs in points and assists, provided the late outside firepower with a couple of 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes. The first came at the 9:03 mark to break a 52-52 tie. The second was even more dramatic because it came immediately after a Buddy Boeheim 3-pointer cut UVA’s lead to 65-62. Clark stepped into a deep 3-pointer several steps off the line and doubled the lead to 68-62 – “we needed that,” Bennett said. He answered Boeheim one more time less than a minute later. Boeheim had just hit a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 68-64, but Clark sliced through the middle of the zone for a layup that snuffed out any momentum once again.

Those critical plays late helped seal the win and capped off an impressive half for the Hoos. They shot 63.0% in the second half (17-27) and finished 52.6% (30-57) for the game. That effort included 22 assists with only 9 turnovers, while attacking the zone with different players and different ways to get into the seams. UVA finished with 40 points in the paint.

“They’re a tough team. I think Virginia, Coach Bennett’s the best at drawing up his own offense against the zone,” Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim said. “I mean I’ve seen three different looks, four different looks the last four years I’ve played them. They’ve done different things with different personnel. I’ll never forget my freshman year when they had a guy in the high post, brought him outside, and they made 18 3’s with their guys. This year, it was they overloaded the bottom – they had two guys, one guy on the block and one guy kind of on the high post so they got three layups at the end of the first half off that just going to the corner and looking at one of those two guys and if we’re late rotating they get a dunk. They just run so many different sets that I’ve never seen before against any other team really and Coach Bennett’s one of the best coaches in college basketball so he always has a game plan and I think they do a great job executing it.”

The offense’s surge helped take some pressure off the defense, but the Wahoos put together a solid if imperfect performance on that end of the floor as well. They held the Orange to 36.7% shooting (22-60) in the game, something that was needed to counter 10 3-pointers, 15 free throws, and 18 offensive rebounds from the hosts.

That last stat played a big role in keeping Syracuse in the contest as it produced 16 second-chance points off those extra opportunities. Buddy Boeheim had 9 of those 16 second-chance points en route to a team-high 27 points. He added 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Jimmy Boeheim joined his brother in double figures with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals. Jesse Edwards and Cole Swider chipped in 9 and 8 points, respectively.

It wasn’t enough to keep the Wahoos from leaving with a win as they open 2022 with three straight road games.

“I think were some opportunities where we could have gotten rattled, but guys held in there,” Bennett said. “I think where we got hurt were some offensive rebounds we gave up. I think we played well obviously, we did a lot of things well, but our defensive rebounding was not good this game giving up 18 for them offensive rebounds and then there were a couple of breakdowns where we gave up 12 transition points. Even with that being said, I thought we kept our composure and kept playing against that zone and played really good defense for the most part, the initial part – it was just those second-chance points. I thought there was some resiliency and it was a good step for sure.”

Final Stats

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2 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. It was difficult to watch Joe Girard being rattled by Clark’s defense. He’ll have many other opportunities to prove his worth in the ACC. Syracuse needs to work the ball inside with better penetration.

    1. Well Syracuse lives by the 3 and they died by it in this game. I thought it was one of the better efforts from start to finish by the Hoos. The next two away games will tell us a lot. A 2-1 record would be great.

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