The No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers picked up a big win to open the 2019-20 season as the reigning national champions went on the road and stymied the Syracuse Orange in a 48-34 win. That’s right, 34. Although the Virginia offense struggled at times — especially from beyond the arc — the defense was in mid-season form.
To breakdown the game a little further, let’s look at some of the numbers that stood out.
11 - Since Tony Bennett arrived on Grounds, the Cavaliers have won every single season opener. This was the 11th straight, with Syracuse joining Longwood, Roanoake, South Carolina State, George Mason, James Madison (x2), Morgan State, UNC-Greensboro (x2), and Towson as teams that fell to the Hoos on opening night.
The games against Mason (2012), James Madison (2014), and UNC-G (2016) were all on the road, just like the Syracuse game.
1945 - The last time Syracuse scored as few points as they did on Wednesday night, it was the end of World War II. Yep, that’s right. The second World War. According to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, the Orange lost to something called Sampson Navy, 49-28. The 34 points scored by Syracuse was also the fewest scored at the Carrier Dome or under Jim Boeheim since...Virginia held them to 44 last season. Sorry, not sorry, Syracuse.
28.6 - That’s the percent you get when you shoot 4-for-14 from the field as Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes did. He got 14 points in the loss, but he had to work hard for all of them. A big part of that? The defense of first year Casey Morsell. The fact that Bennett even had him matched up against Syracuse’s most dynamic scorer says a lot about the first year’s defensive prowess. He’s going to be good.
12 - Jay Huff had himself his first career double-double, and that was partly because of his aggressiveness on the glass. Huff grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, including 10 on the defensive glass. Virginia rebounded 82.2% of Syracuse’s misses and 33.3% of their own misses, hauling down 47 total in the game.
Huff added 11 points to go with is 12 rebounds, and shot 5-for-6 from the field in 29 minutes. Pretty, pretty good.
3 - Kihei Clark also had his first career double-double, and he was just three assists shy of getting a triple-double. Clark finished with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds to go with those seven assists. According to Virginia Basketball Sports Information Director Erich Bacher, Clark’s 11 rebounds are the most for any ACC player 5-11 or shorter since Virginia’s Donald Hand did it in 1999.
Huff, in his normal Huff fashion, had a hilarious take on the little guy’s rebounds. “All I’m saying is, he wouldn’t have gotten all those rebounds if I hadn’t boxed my man out,” Huff told Jeff White of Virginia Sports. “We’ll give him that. He took a few of mine, too. I was going for them and then I saw him there and I said, ‘Oh, shoot, I’m going to trip on him.’“
21 - Virginia has held 21 teams under 40 points over the last 10 seasons, which is just absolutely absurd.
They say defense wins championships pic.twitter.com/YJEchwfwDq— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 7, 2019
4 - The Hoos blocked four attempts against the Orange, with [checks notes] KODY STATTMANN (?!) getting one of them. Mamadi Diakite swatted two blocks in the opener, but really I just wanted an excuse to post this video again:
What a swat by Mamadi Diakite (@_mdiakite) last night! ❌#GoHoos | #Wahoowa pic.twitter.com/d4PzMWn1ON— Virginia Cavaliers (@VirginiaSports) November 7, 2019
16 - I can’t give you all positive numbers. The Hoos went 4-for-25 from three (16%) in the opener, but don’t freakout just yet. We knew that outside shooting was going to be the biggest issue this season as Virginia gets used to life after the Big Three. Throw in that it was the first game of the season, the three point line is further back, and that they were playing the 2-3 zone that is known to disrupt offensive flow, and you can expect those numbers to get better over the season.
Next up, Virginia hosts JMU on Sunday at 6pm as the Hoos open the home slate.