SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — 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.
The Cavaliers became the first defending 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 head coach Tony Bennett.
Virginia had held the Orange to 68 or fewer points in each of the previous eight meetings between the teams and this one followed form. Syracuse shot 13 of 55 (23.6%) and was outrebounded 47-28, falling behind early and never managing to stage any sort of comeback against the Cavaliers’ Pack-Line defense. It marked the first time the Orange hadn’t scored 40 points since 2013 at Georgetown (39).
Syracuse lost the bulk of its scoring with the early departures of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard, who exhausted his eligibility. Elijah Hughes is the lone returning starter on a team with five freshmen and finished with a team-high 14 points, the only player in double figures.
Virginia lost its top three players from last season’s national championship team. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter departed early to enter the NBA draft. Sophomore guard Kihei Clark and senior forward Mamadi Diakite are the two returning starters.
In Virginia’s 79-53 win over Syracuse last March in the Carrier Dome, the Cavaliers matched a school record by hitting 18 3-pointers in 25 tries (72 percent), the most the Orange had ever allowed, and Hunter, Guy and Jerome were the marksmen. They were the first trio of teammates in ACC history to make five or more 3-pointers in the same game.
That accuracy was gone in this game. Virginia shot 4 of 24 (16.7%) from behind the arc. Syracuse finished just a tad better at 5 of 29 (17.2%).
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.
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.
Virginia likely won’t move much in the rankings despite losses by No. 1 Michigan State and No. 3 Kansas.
TOUGH 4 T
The Syracuse players wore white t-shirts in warm-ups with a logo on front Tough4T to honor point guard Tiana Mangakahia, a star for the Syracuse women’s team who is recovering from breast cancer. Mangakahia was on the bench last night in the Carrier Dome for the season opener in support of her teammates.
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.
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