No. 11 Virginia men's basketball stifles unranked Syracuse, 48-34

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No. 11 Virginia men's basketball stifles unranked Syracuse, 48-34

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Virginia picked up right where it left off in April -- showcasing its Pack-Line defense in impressive fashion.

Mamadi Diakite scored 12 points, Jay Huff added 11 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 11 Virginia shut down Syracuse 48-34 on Wednesday night.

Syracuse's shooting numbers told the story: 13 of 55 (23.6%) from the floor, 5 of 29 (17.6%) from behind the arc against the defending national champions.

"I know we have to be good defensively. That will be very significant for how good we can be," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "I think our team understands how important that aspect will be. It starts with willingness. If there's no willingness, then you're wasting your time, and there's willingness by the coaching staff and here's purpose and buy-in by the young men."

The Cavaliers became the first reigning NCAA champion to start the next season with a true road game since UCLA opened the 1967-68 season at Purdue. The Cavaliers have a 12-game winning streak in ACC openers and are 11-0 in ACC openers under Bennett.

Virginia held the Orange to 68 or fewer points in each of the previous eight meetings between the teams and this one followed form, and then some, against a team that gave four freshmen nearly 50 minutes of playing time. They finished 2 of 13 from the floor.

"It's hard," said Elijah Hughes, the only Syracuse player in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. "They've got guys that guard the ball. They've got shot blockers. It's really hard to get in a rhythm. He (Bennett) makes it difficult every year. They're coming off a national championship. They're just really good at what they do."

Virginia also outrebounded Syracuse 47-28 as the Orange fell behind early and never managed to stage any sort of comeback. It marked the first time the Orange hadn't scored 40 points since 2013 at Georgetown (39).

"I thought they'd be better defensively than they were last year," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I think they're maybe better, or at least as good. We could get by them a little bit last year, we couldn't this year. They're one of the few teams that can do that to you."

Syracuse lost the bulk of its scoring with the early departures of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard, who exhausted his eligibility. Hughes is the lone returning starter.

"Right now, our offense isn't good enough to play against that defense," Boeheim said. "They're too physical, too strong. They just take you out. The shots we got were tough. Our defense was respectable."


Clark had 10 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists for the Cavaliers.


The rust from the offseason was on full display in the first 10 minutes as Virginia gained a 10-2 lead despite hitting just 1 of 7 shots from behind the arc. The Orange started 1 for 13, including five missed 3s, the only make a layup by Bourama Sidibe that gave them a 2-0 lead. Syracuse trailed 25-19 at halftime, matching the team record for fewest points in a half since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980. They shot 7 of 27 (25.9%) while the Cavaliers were 11 of 24 (45.8 percent), all but one of their misses from long range.


Syracuse freshman guard Joe Girard III, New York state's all-time leading scorer in high school, scored his first points for the Orange with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, the ball bouncing high off the back of the rim before dropping through the net late in the first half.


Former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony, who as a freshman led the Orange to their lone national championship in 2003, made a rare appearance in the Carrier Dome since his departure after the championship season. Anthony, who was greeted by chants of Melo! Melo! Melo!, had his number retired in 2013 and also appeared in 2009 for the opening of the team's main practice facility, which bears his name.


Virginia: The Cavaliers don't have that outside presence from last year, but their stiff defense looks in good form early.

Syracuse: The Orange are a work in progress. Point guard remains a key -- the Orange had only seven assists.


Virginia hosts James Madison in non-conference action on Sunday. The Cavaliers, who will play 13 games against 2019 NCAA Tournament teams, will meet either Arizona State or St. John's in the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 24.

Syracuse continues its season-opening homestand with four more games, including Cornell, whose leading scorer after one game was coach Boeheim's oldest son Jimmy. The Orange finish the stand against Bucknell in the NIT Season Tipoff before traveling to Brooklyn to meet Oklahoma State at the Barclay's Center.


2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker commits to Howard

2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker commits to Howard

When five-star big man Makur Maker announced his final four schools Thursday and Howard University was on the list, it certainly raised some eyebrows. Now, it appears Howard has landed one of the biggest recruits in its history. 

Maker tweeted early Friday morning that he had committed to Howard and head coach Kenny Blakeney over UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis.

"I was the first to announce my visit to Howard & others started to dream “what if,'" Maker wrote. "I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow. I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard U & coach Kenny Blakeney."

Top high school recruits such as Maker and 2023 five-star Mikey Williams are the first to show real interest in playing their college ball at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Maker is the first of his caliber to make a commitment amid a worldwide movement against the systematic oppression of Black people. 


Maker, the brother of Pistons big man Thon Maker, is the 18th-ranked 2020 recruit in the nation according to 247sports. The 6'11, 235-pound big man is known for his blend of size, mobility and perimeter skills at the center position.

Maker was born in Kenya and immigrated to Australia when he was one year old. He then played high school basketball at multiple schools in California before playing his final season at Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix, AZ. 

Maker will join a program in need of a boost in talent. Howard went 4-29 last season and will surely improve with their newest addition. But perhaps Maker's decision will have a bigger impact on college basketball moving forward. As top recruits begin to consider avenues outside the traditional powerhouse programs, the game's landscape could look a lot different in a few years.

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Class of 2020 five-star prospect, Makur Maker is considering Howard in his final four

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Class of 2020 five-star prospect, Makur Maker is considering Howard in his final four

Howard men's basketball is in the running for arguably the program's biggest recruit in its history. 

On Thursday, 2020 consensus five-star recruit Makur Maker, cousin of NBA star Thon Maker,  announced that the Bison are amongst his final four teams he is considering. UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis make out his list.

Just to be in the same breath of those programs and to be an option for a player that has the upside of Maker is a huge boost to school. But on a larger scale, it is signaling that the wave of top Black basketball prospects weighing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as an option will continue.

Last month, one of the top recruits of the 2023 class Mikey Williams -- who has wowed followers on Twitter with his highlight videos -- tweeted, "Going to an HBCU wouldn’t be too bad..." That sparked a massive amount of traction on social media and even contributed to HBCUs reaching out to other five-star prospects. Two five-star prospects picked up new offers from HBCUs in the weeks that followed, according to ESPN

And it didn't stop there, four-star Nate Tabor actually signed with Norfolk State.


Thursday, Williams -- with a new Twitter account -- doubled down. He sent two more tweets indicating that an HBCU is an option, or to tip off the Maker news that was coming out later.

Howard's recruitment of Maker is not a part of this new trend from the past month. The Bison have been in on the 6-foot-11 center since 2019. In October, he made his official visit to the school. 

Listing them in a four-team grouping and committing are two separate things, too. The other teams on the list have far more national prominence and resources compared to Howard. Going to Kentucky or Memphis would boost his profile and better prepare him for the NBA. And, there's also the option of him turning professional -- which has led Oregon and Kentucky, to an extent, to tone back their recruitment, according to Forbes

Choosing Howard, though, would be a gamechanger to HBCU basketball. He might be HBCUs' biggest prospect since Ben Wallace when he went to Virginia Union in the 1990s. Singlehandedly, he would vault Howard into relevancy from a 4-29 season last year and pack gyms across the East Coast in the MEAC.

It would also open up doors for other elite prospects to join the wave. Help turn the schools from the long-overlooked MEAC and SWAC (the two biggest HBCU Division I conferences) to actually having a stronghold in the college basketball community.

Nothing is set in stone until Maker makes his decision. The allure of a Power 5 program with all the amenities could win him over, so could jumping to the professional ranks. But for now, Howard is in the running and so is the option to take a path less traveled. 

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