The Virginia Cavaliers basketball season came to an end last night in gut wrenching fashion in the Elite Eight. #1 seed UVA were the favorites against the #10 seed Syracuse Orange, but were upset 68-62. The Hoos had been 68-0 in the Tony Bennett era when leading by double digits at halftime. UVA shot a better % than Syracuse from FG, 3PT, and FT. What happened?
The first half went as well as expected for Virginia as the Cavaliers built a 35-21 halftime lead. After having difficulties early, UVA eventually figured out Syracuse's zone and shot 48% from the field, while limiting Syracuse to only 21 points on 8/26 shooting. While Malcolm Brogdon was struggling to find his shot (1/6), London Perrantes was on fire from 3 point range hitting 5 of 7. Unfortunately the second half was a different story.
On the first possession of the half, Gill made an easy dunk to put UVA up 16, but that is the largest the lead would be. Over the next ten minutes, the Hoos were called for 7 fouls compared to only 3 for Syracuse. The Orange only shot 4/14 during this stretch but Virginia could not expand on its lead due to Syracuse going 6/6 from the free throw line. With 10 minutes left in the game, UVA was up 14, but what followed next was the Cavalier's worst stretch of basketball in the entire season.
Syracuse's coach Jim Boeheim switched the Orange's defensive approach to a full court press, which has a received a lot of the national attention, but there is more to the game than just increasing the half court pressure on the inbounds. UVA was initially able to break the press and scored on 3 of their next 5 possessions. Unfortunately, Syracuse got hot for the first time all game and scored on 11 consecutive possessions, going 9/10 from FG and 4/4 from FT. At the same time, Virginia started to make mistakes and miss shots leading to 8 consecutive possessions without scoring. By the time the 15-0 run was stopped by a Gill layup, the Hoos were down 4 with 1:43 to go. Syracuse was able to finish off Virginia despite shooting 0/6 down the stretch by hitting free throws aided by being in the bonus due to the earlier fouls on UVA. The Hoos had been able to handle pressure teams like WVU before, but their defensive play failed them at the worst time.
Some of the damage:
- The 47 points in the second half were the most Virginia has given up in any half since the infamous Tennessee game in December of 2013, which was 94 games ago.
- Malcolm Brogdon's 2/14 (.143) from FG was his worst shooting performance since 2013.
- Syracuse's 11 steals were the most UVA has allowed since VCU in November 2014.
- Virginia came into the game ranked 6th in the NCAA in second half scoring margin at 6.7, but were outscored by 20.
- The 27 points were the fewest the Cavaliers have scored in the second half all season.
- UVA's offensive efficiency for the entire game was 96.4, their second lowest of the season.
- Virginia's leading scorer in the tournament, Anthony Gill, only had 4 FG attempts, which was fewer attempts than Devon Hall, who averages 4 points a game.
Unfortunately, UVA's playoff run came to an end due to their worst 10 minute stretch of basketball of the season. There is hope for the future for UVA fans as next year's squad will have four players that were ranked in ESPN's top #50 recruiting rankings.