Cuse men’s basketball battles to the buzzer in ACC Tournament loss

Cuse MBB battles to the buzzer in ACC Tournament loss

SU falls to UVA 72-69 in a last second thriller as Buddy Boeheim pours in a program-record 31 points.
Published: March 11, 2021
Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim (35) is pressured by Virginia during the 2021 New York Life ACC Men's Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 11, 2021.
Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim (35) is pressured by Virginia during the 2021 New York Life ACC Men's Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Syracuse men’s basketball was eliminated from the ACC Tournament in dramatic fashion following a wire-to-wire 72-69 loss at the buzzer to top-seeded Virginia. Buddy Boeheim dropped 31 points, an ACC Tournament record for Syracuse, but was unable to carry the Orange past the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament, dominated the Orange in their last matchup on Jan. 2, in Charlottesville, Virginia. SU was held to just 58 points in a 23-point loss, their lowest output of the season.

In the postgame press conference, head coach Jim Boeheim applauded the team for their offensive output against the defensive stalwart.

“Really proud of this team,” Jim Boeheim said. “We played the best team in the conference today and a really, really good defensive team, and they’re hard to score against. You put 69 points up against Virginia, you’ve got to do something right.”

The tale of the tape in the first game was three-point shooting. The Orange hit on just five of 23 attempts while the Cavaliers hit 14 of 31 from behind the arc. In the ACC Tournament matchup, Syracuse fared better with 36% shooting behind the arc, but UVA knocked down three more triples.

Syracuse opened the game right where they left off against NC State with good offensive play and streaky Boeheim scoring. He opened the game with a fadeaway post move and added a triple off a screen shortly after to widen the early lead to 7-2.

Boeheim also got his teammates going while the Cavaliers keyed on him, finding Marek Dolezaj rolling to the basket for a two high off the glass. As Virginia began to claw back, Joe Girard III stole a pass to eventually set up a Dolezaj offensive rebound. Dolezaj flipped the ball to Alan Griffin who fed a perfect bounce pass behind his back to a cutting Quincy Guerrier for a slam.

Dolezaj had his work cut out for him as the primary matchup for 7’1” senior Jay Huff of the Cavaliers. Huff dominated the interior with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

As Virginia found their rhythm offensively, the Orange stayed in front with timely 3-pointers and three-point plays. Griffin was fouled on a three and was perfect from the line, Boeheim pulled down a tough, contested offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Robert Braswell for a three and in transition, Boeheim knocked down a stop and pop three of his own to put the Orange up 20-14 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the half.

After a timeout, Girard picked up his second steal of the game to lead a fast break score. Boeheim picked up an assist as Braswell got behind UVA for an easy dunk.

Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim (35) puts up a shot over Virginia’s Jay Huff (30) during the first half on Thursday, March 11, 2021 during the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim (35) puts up a shot over Virginia’s Jay Huff (30) during the first half on Thursday, March 11, 2021 during the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

Defensively, Syracuse played aggressively all throughout the first half. Almost every UVA player faced double-team traps when they caught a pass, and every dunk was contested at the rim.

Braswell picked up his third make on as many shots as Girard found him on an alley-oop 35 feet from the basket. He then grabbed an offensive rebound and fired up a three to get to 10 points.

Boeheim added another triple off a Dolezaj screen and assist, but the Orange picked up fouls while the Cavaliers knocked down threes to cut the lead to 39-36 heading into the half.

Cuse held just a three-point lead at the half despite outshooting UVA 41.7% to 18.8% from three. Both teams brought in 16 rebounds, but Huff secured eight alone for Virginia while SU had no player with more than three.

The Virginia defense that stifled the Orange in the first matchup reared its head at the end of the first, holding the Orange scoreless in the last four minutes and just one make on their final eight attempts.

The scoreless streak for the Orange continued into the second half, and following two consecutive UVA triples, Syracuse trailed for the first time in the game, 42-39.

Virginia used a 1-of-11 shooting stretch by Cuse to go on a 16-2 run, but Boeheim staunched the bleeding with a long two. He then put the Orange back in front 46-44 with another triple five minutes into the second half.

The teams traded bucked for bucket as Girard put the Orange up three, but the Cavaliers responded to tie the game at 49-49.

Quincy Guerrier (1) dunks over Virginia defenders in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, March 11, 2021.
Quincy Guerrier (1) dunks over Virginia defenders in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Past the halfway point in the second half, Guerrier helped keep the Orange’s chances alive against a surging UVA. He made a contested basket at the rim and a turnaround post jumper to tie the game at 54-54. He then took a hard charge on the defensive end, firing up the SU bench. After the game, he described the team’s emotional effort in the loss.

“I mean, it’s hard. It’s hard,” Guerrier said. “At the end of the game, I cried because we gave everything. I knew we gave everything. There was probably a couple things that we could do better like Virginia, but it happens. And it’s just — I’m happy for everyone. We should be proud of ourselves the way we played today.”

Guerrier pulled in an offensive rebound and the ball found Dolezaj at the rim for an easy finish, putting the Orange up 56-54 under seven minutes remaining.

A Boeheim wide open three and a jumper brought the score to 59-59, but UVA’s shooters began to catch fire as they took a 67-59 lead. Boeheim responded with another basket, tying his 27 points from the NC State game a day before.

At the line a possession later, Boeheim knocked down both free throws to bring the Orange within two, and his 29 points became the most in an ACC Tournament game in Cuse history.

With less than a minute remaining, Guerrier lunged to block a three-point attempt and Dolezaj was fouled on the rebound, giving the ball back to Cuse. Boeheim once again got to the line and tied the game at 69-69 with 28.6 seconds remaining.

As the clock expired, Reece Beekman ended the Orange’s tournament run as he knocked down a wide open three from the wing for his first points of the game. Despite the 72-69 loss, Boeheim finished with a career-high 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting. After the game, Jim Boeheim praised his performance.

“I can’t even describe Buddy’s play,” Jim Boeheim said. “They had a guy all over him the whole game. They were holding him and pushing him the whole game, and he was tremendous. I mean, you couldn’t ask anything more out of a player than what he gave us today. I haven’t said much about him because I think his play speaks for itself, but I mean, he was phenomenal today against that team. Absolutely phenomenal.”

On the other side of the bracket, Duke withdrew from the tournament following a positive COVID-19 test last night after their upset win against Louisville. The No. 2 seeded Florida State Seminoles advanced by default to the semifinals and will play the winner of Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

With the loss, Syracuse will await the selection decision on Sunday evening to determine if their season will continue in the NCAA Tournament. March Madness seems increasingly likely for the Orange as projections and odds have them in the tournament, and with the removal of Duke, Syracuse figures to be the last team in for the ACC.

Avatar for Henry Sutter

is a magazine, news and online graduate student and lead sports producer for The NewsHouse.