You might forgive Wahoo fans if they viewed Saturday's game at Syracuse with a bit of trepidation. There's still a little psychological damage within the fanbase from The Game That Won't Be Mentioned. And there was that press, again rearing its ugly head in the closing minutes at JPJ, shaving a fourteen point lead down to five before the Hoos settled in for a seven point victory. Now the Hoos were traveling to the Carrier Dome with a gimpy squad featuring rolled ankles, flu bugs, and a questionable back. Toss in an expected record crowd looking to disrupt the country's second ranked team and get in a little court storming to round out the afternoon.
Syracuse PTSD is a real thing, especially if you bought into that narrative. Jim Boeheim certainly didn't. He knew the score. Or, more accurately, he knew that his squad couldn't score. Boeheim's postgame quotes revealed his self-evident truth when addressing the Orange's anemic offensive output against the Hoos. "Offensively, we cannot score against teams that are really good defensively, so obviously you are really going to have struggle scoring against Virginia. They are a tremendous defensive team. We rely on our two guards to score and make plays and when they don't, we have a problem offensively."
Boeheim is referring to Tyus Battle and Franklin Howard, of course. Battle went for 12 points on 6 for 16 shooting, 0 for 7 from three, and Howard scored 18 points on 6 for 20 shooting, including 4 for 9 from three, in the loss at JPJ. Not exactly the picture of offensive efficiency. Their output in the Carrier Dome was more of the same. Battle managed 15 points on 6 for 17 shooting, 2 for 8 from three. Howard was only able to post 11 points on 4 for 17 shooting and 1 for 9 from three.
The Pack Line was relentless, never giving the two guards for Syracuse much room to operate as they sought to win the game with hero ball. Instead, the pressure on Battle and Howard only increased throughout the game as the Hoos squeezed harder and harder, choking the life out of the Orange's offense.
The real difference maker between the two contests? Well, besides Mamadi Diakite using one of the Carrier Dome rims as his own personal pull up bar, was told on the backboards. The Orange beat the Hoos to a pulp on the boards at JPJ, out rebounding UVA by ten. Syracuse was able to snag a staggering nineteen offensive rebounds in that game including ten from Paschal Chukwu. In the dome, the Hoos turned the tables and returned the beating. It was easy to see that the Hoos had an intense focus on rebounding, finishing with a nine board edge when the final buzzer sounded. Syracuse was also limited to only six offensive boards the entire game, the same number secured by UVA.
This win was a thing of beauty from the defensive end leaving Syracuse with their fewest points ever scored in the Carrier Dome. From the tip off, the Orange were placed in a vise grip and the Hoos never let up. UVA did not trail throughout as Tony Bennett tightened the grip, squeezing the Orange more and more as each minute ticked by. By the end, the Hoos claimed a satisfying victory leaving their opponent withered, discouraged, and completely used up.
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