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#3 Virginia outlasts Syracuse in defensive battle, 68-61

Guy breaks 20 points and Hunter gives the Hoos a needed boost.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers exorcised some demons Tuesday night as they held off a pesky Syracuse Orange team, 68-61.

Kyle Guy led the Hoos with 22 points and Devon Hall had 13 points and eight assists. Virginia shot 38% from the floor for the game and 33% from three, while holding Syracuse to 38% and 29% respectively. The Orange got balanced scoring with Frank Howard leading the way with and 18 and Oshae Brissett (16) and Tyus Battle (12) hitting double digits.

Virginia had outstanding ball control, only turning the ball over seven times while forcing Syracuse into 11 turnovers. On top of that, ball movement was not an issue for the Hoos as they assisted 15 of 20 made baskets (and uncharacteristically missed some open looks). The Orange, on the other hand, only assisted three of 23 made shots.

Neither team shot lights out to start the game with Virginia holding a slim 6-5 lead at the first timeout thanks to two Kyle Guy three-pointers. Syracuse broke a seven-all tie with a three-pointer from Frank Howard to take a 10-7 lead. The Hoos struggled mightily from the field, missing 11 of their first 14 shots.

De’Andre Hunter once again provided a spark for the Hoos, coming in at the under 12 timeout, scoring three short-range jumpers and two free throws for eight quick points. Virginia re-took the lead 20-19 on a Guy’s third three of the of the half, and the Hoos pushed it to 22-19 thanks to a Wilkins dunk.

Howard answered with his third three of the half to tie it at 22 with 5:25 to play, but it was short lived after Devon Hall got a friendly home bounce on a pull up jumper to give the Hoos a 24-22 lead. Hunter scored the next five points for Virginia as Matt Moyer and Tyus Battle hit shots for the Orange, giving the Hoos a 29-26 lead at halftime.

Virginia shot 41% from the field (3-for-12 from three) for the first half, led by Hunter’s 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 12 minutes of action. The Hoos only turned it over once in the first 20 minutes and assisted eight of their 11 made buckets. Hall dished out six first half assists with no turnovers and two points. Guy chipped in nine points on 3-for-7 shooting, all three pointers.

Howard led the Orange with 11 points in the first half, going 3-for-4 from three. Virginia was able to limit Tyus Battle to just six points and superstar Oshae Brissett to five points in the first half as the Orange shot 38.5% from the field. Syracuse came into the game shooting 31.6% from three, but hit 4-of-9 (44.4%) in the first half. The Orange had six turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but Virginia was only able to score five points off of them.

Each team was called for just five fouls apiece in the first 20 minutes, leading to two (made) Syracuse free throws and Virginia going 4-for-6 from the line.

Virginia started the second half much like the first, struggling to hit any shots and letting Syracuse get to the rim relatively easily. Guy scored the Hoos’ first three points of the half on three free throws, and Ty Jerome buried a three in transition after starting a frigid 0-for-5 from the field (all three-pointers) to give UVA a 35-31 lead at the under 16.

Jerome hit another three, pushing Virginia’s lead to five, then followed it up with another to make it 41-33 with 14 minutes to play. Brissett hit a jumper to close the gap to six, but Guy bombed his fourth three of the game to push it to a nine point Virginia advantage.

Virginia’s defense were able to get some stops, but the offense couldn’t take advantage and pull away, letting Syracuse get within four. Hall missed on a three, but an Wilkins corralled an offensive rebound and dished it right back to Hall who buried the second attempt.

Battle responded with a tough jumper with a hand in his face, making it 47-42, but good ball movement found Guy open in the corner for his fifth three pointer. Syracuse refused to go away thanks to big man Paschal Chukwu. Hunter got his first second half basket on a tip-in following a miss by Hall, giving the Hoos a 54-46 cushion with 6:18 remaining.

Hall put the Hoos up 10 - their largest margin to that point - with 3:19 to play by way of four straight free throws, but Battle hit an insane long two with a hand in his face to keep the Orange in striking distance.

Syracuse put on a press with under three to play (internal panicking), but Jerome found Wilkins all alone under the basket for an easy dunk and the ten point lead once again.

Battle fouled out with 1:24 to play, and Hall sank both free throws to make it 64-50, but the Orange still weren’t done as Howard hit a layup and buried a three with just under 50 seconds left to keep the pressure on Virginia. Two steals in succession and some pressure by the Orange let Syracuse get within five, but Hall and Guy sank their free throws and the Hoos managed the win.

Most Valuable Player

De’Andre Hunter finished with 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half, but he kept the Hoos afloat when no one could hit anything early. Hunter also had two blocks, two steals, and two rebounds to go with his points for a successful night. He’s really coming into his own in conference play, and the Hoos will need him if they want to have a successful postseason.


-For a Tuesday game that tipped at 8:15pm with the students still on break, the crowd at JPJ was loud and engaged. Well done, Hoos.

-Hi, TV Teddy.

-Virginia’s bench outscored the Orange 18-0.

-Devon Hall went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in clutch time, and the team shot 19-for-22 (86.4%)from the line for the game.

-Spotify, I love you.