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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."

STAT OF THE GAME

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

SLOW START

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.

MEMORABLE MOMENT

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.

CARMELO IN THE HOUSE

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.

BIG PICTURE

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.

UP NEXT

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.

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Georgetown attempts to move forward from controversy with win over rival Syracuse

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Georgetown attempts to move forward from controversy with win over rival Syracuse

Syracuse-Georgetown is always a matchup circled on college basketball calendars around the country. A historic rivalry that has lived on from the carcass of a former great conference. 

On a dreary Saturday in the nation’s capital, it wasn’t a day to reminisce of slug-em-out contests of the 1980s. Not a contest to brag about teams of old or argue about which program is better. It wasn’t even a day where Georgetown got to celebrate the first win of Patrick Ewing’s coaching career in this famous series.

Rather, it was a day to judge the future of one of college basketball’s storied programs. How Ewing and the Hoyas can salvage the remainder of the 2019-20 season and move forward with nine scholarship players.  

“[Ewing is] a very good coach and I think he’s got seven guys that are as good as anybody,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of the remaining seven scholarship players that played this season. “If we played them, the way they were playing earlier in the year, we would’ve won the game.”

Georgetown won 89-79, but all the anticipation heading into this contest was what was happening off the court. 

Four players had transferred out of the Hoyas program in the past two weeks. Three of those players facing serious allegations and issued restraining orders from a Georgetown student. The other being their starting point guard for an undisclosed reason.

Combined, the four of them had accounted for nearly 30% of the team’s playing time. At this point in the season, with conference play less than a month away, this would be detrimental for any ordinary team. 

But from the outside, Boeheim believes that the exodus of players could benefit the Hoyas. The players that left were not conducive to winning basketball. 

“I think by far this is by far the best team we’ve seen from Georgetown that I’ve seen in the past few years,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. Of the players that left, “two guys weren’t really contributing at all and another guy was throwing the ball up all the time. I know Patrick can’t say that, but I can. I watched [James Akinjo] play three games. He lost three games, two games by himself.”

Still, going from a team of 13 scholarship players to nine is a drastic change. 

At least on the court, the Hoyas answered the challenge of limited depth. The Hoyas went eight-deep in their last big nonconference test of the year. One of the rotation players was the walk-on senior, George Muresan (son of former Washington Bullet Gheorghe Mureșan) who scrounged up six minutes of action. 

They all played clean and held themselves to only 14 personal fouls, tied for their fewest this season. 

“It has been a difficult week. A lot of things have happened, bad things swirling around. But I thought my guys stepped up,” Ewing said. “We still [have] enough on our team to have a very good year.”

To have a good season, one that started with NCAA Tournament aspirations, it will come down to Ewing. Against Syracuse, he was plugged in as ever. Not once did the former Hoya sit during live-ball action. He was barking out orders on the sideline, directing every offensive possession with intricate hand motions and waving players to certain places on the court. Despite leading for over 36 minutes and holding a 10-point lead consistently throughout the contest, not once did he waiver in his urgency. 

He was stoic from the tip to the final buzzer, not moving out of a three-foot area he carved himself in front of the scorer’s table. But once the last horn sounded the tenseness in his shoulders waned. As Ewing walked to the locker room to celebrate his first-ever win as a coach in the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry, the emotion that has been built up since early December came out.

It was the third-straight game since the legal complaints against the now-former Georgetown players were made public. All three being arguably their most-complete performances of the season and their longest winning streak in nearly a year. 

Through the turmoil, it has been Mac McClung steering the ship for the Hoyas. The sophomore dropped 26 points, 21 of which came in the first half with a dagger buzzer-beater. Since Akinjo’s departure and Terrell Allen stepping in as the point guard, McClung is on fire growing confidence in ever contest. 

As a sophomore, McClung is now the face of the program. Coming in as a touted 6-2 recruit with an innate dunking ability, now the team will turn to him as a leader for the remainder of the season. 

“That’s what happens when you face challenges, you either break apart or come together and I think we’ve came together,” McClung said.

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Mac McClung demoralizes Syracuse with a buzzer-beating three to end the half

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Mac McClung demoralizes Syracuse with a buzzer-beating three to end the half

WASHINGTON - There is not a better way to suck the momentum away from an opponent before halftime than an emphatic run and a buzzer-beater.

Georgetown did just that to Syracuse to finish the opening half of their contest. 

An 11-0 run allowed the Hoyas to open up the score for the first time in their rivalry matchup. The Hoyas then held the Orange without a basket for over a four-minute stretch to end the half. Turnovers by Syracuse, transition baskets for Georgetown had everything going the way for the Hoyas.

Finally, the Orange's best-scorer ended the dry spell. Elijah Hughes hit a mid-range jumper to save the Orange from a heart-breaking end of the half. It was two of his 18 points in the opening 20 minutes. 

Then Mac McClung answered the bell at the horn.

Right up the court without hesitation. McClung had 21 to lead all scorers. The Hoyas were on top 48-36 on a 14-2 run. 

Since the Hoyas lost their starting point guard James Akinjo, McClung has been the answer for Georgetown. He's averaged 26 points in the two games since Akinjo announced his intention to transfer -- which included a season-high 33 against Oklahoma State.

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