No. 7 Virginia has won six games in a row, a run that began with a home victory over Syracuse on Jan. 7.
Now, three weeks later, the Cavaliers will visit Syracuse for a Monday night rematch with their ACC foes.
Virginia (16-3, 8-2 ACC) is coming off its biggest margin of victory during the team’s current winning streak — a 76-57 triumph over Boston College on Saturday.
Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin each scored 18 points, while Reece Beekman registered 11 points and eight assists. Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn combined for 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting off the bench as part of the Cavaliers’ balanced attack.
“It’s probably really tough to scout us when you have a lot of guys that do a lot of different things,” Gardner said. “Plus, everybody’s capable.”
Typically known for their defense under coach Tony Bennett, the Cavaliers have topped 75 points in three consecutive games and are averaging 70.6 points on the season. That, combined with a defense holding opponents to 60.1 points on the year, has contributed to another fine season in Charlottesville.
“We’re not keeping track of the winning streak,” Gardner said. “We’re just keeping track of the next opponent.”
That, of course, is the Orange (13-9, 6-5), who have lost three of their last four games and are coming off an 85-70 defeat at Virginia Tech.
Syracuse allowed the Hokies to fill it up in the first half. Virginia Tech shot 62.5 percent from the field and 55 percent from 3-point range in building a 52-33 halftime advantage and went from there.
“We had stretches where it was good tonight, but it wasn’t as effective as it has been in past games,” Orange forward Justin Taylor said of the team’s zone defense.
In the meantime, Syracuse’s leading scorer, Joe Girard, was held to seven points — his lowest total since late November — making just two of eight shots.
“If I knew (Girard) was going to be that bad, then I probably would have played Symir (Torrence) a little bit more,” said Boeheim, who added that “Joe’s been really good, he just had a bad game. He had a couple earlier in the year, and he bounced back from them.”
Girard struggled from the floor in the first matchup with Virginia, when he scored 19 points but made just 6 of 17 shots as Syracuse lost 73-66.
The Cavaliers won with balanced scoring in the first meeting. Franklin made four 3-pointers as part of a 16-point performance, while Beekman (13 points), McKneely (12), Kadin Shedrick (11) and Gardner (10) also scored in double digits.
Virginia registered 22 assists on 23 baskets in the first meeting.
“I thought it was a better start-to-finish defensive effort, which that’s going to be our best chance moving forward,” Bennett said after beating Syracuse.
After Virginia built a 23-point lead, the Orange were competitive in the second half and got within seven points before succumbing.
“We weren’t going to get back all the way,” Boeheim said. “But I’m proud of the way we fought back.”
–Field Level Media