SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Shot after shot the net kept swishing, and Kyle Guy and the Virginia Cavaliers kept smiling.
Guy hit a career-high eight 3-pointers to lead a long-range barrage that produced 18 makes from beyond the arc, and No. 2 Virginia beat Syracuse 79-53 on Monday night. Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter each had five 3s as the Cavaliers tied the school record for 3-pointers, the most ever allowed by the Orange.
As this season winds down, the memory of Virginia’s stunning first-round loss to No. 16 seed UMBC in the NCAA Tournament last March is still on the mind.
“Everybody knows how last season ended, so we never forget about it, we always remember it, hold it in the back of our head,” Guy said. “It’s just a chip on our shoulder and we’re shooting that well and we’re in the zone.”
The Cavaliers (27-2, 15-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), whose only two losses were to Duke, have won seven straight since losing for the second time to the Blue Devils and lead North Carolina by a half game in the ACC.
“I guess it’s contagious the way we were shooting,” Hunter said. “Everyone’s playing well. Everyone’s hitting shots. We’re playing great defense and getting stops. The morale was really high.”
Syracuse (19-11, 10-7) was coming off a solid road win at Wake Forest, but the Orange’s vaunted zone defense was torched for eight 3-pointers during a 27-3 spurt in the second half. After falling behind by one point, the Cavaliers outscored Syracuse 37-10 over the final 15 minutes and finished the half 10 of 13 from long range.
That wasn’t the game plan.
“We went into the game wanting to make them drive, get them off the 3-point line,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “We didn’t do that. When you let Guy and Jerome shoot those shots, they’re going to make them. They just took over.”
Guy finished with 25 points, Hunter had 21, and Jerome 16, with a career-high 14 assists. The three finished a combined 18 of 23 from behind the arc.
Just over a year ago, Hunter scored 15 points and Guy added 14 as then-No. 2 Virginia humbled the Orange 59-44, the fewest points Syracuse has scored in the Carrier Dome. This one was tight until the big barrage.
Virginia’s biggest lead in the first 25 minutes was four points, but after Tyus Battle hit a corner 3 to give Syracuse a one-point lead with 15:05 left, the Cavaliers defense kicked in as they scored 11 straight points to gain a double-digit advantage and pulled away.
“To shoot like that, it’s hard to beat a team when a team is clicking that way, not just one guy but three guys,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Those guys were terrific in the second half. There were three or four that were deep.”
Hunter hit a 3 from the left corner, Mamadi Diakite converted a layup and Jerome hit a long 3 from the top of the key for a 50-43 advantage nearing the midpoint of the period. Guy’s fifth 3 of the game made it 53-43 at 10:26 as Syracuse went scoreless for nearly five minutes and hit only 1 of 10 shots as the lead slipped away.
Guy’s eighth 3 gave Virginia its 17th from beyond the arc, the most ever against the Orange.
Battle, the Orange’s leading scorer, finished 5 of 19 for 11 points. Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim also had 11 points apiece as the Orange finished 19 of 57.
“They got hot and we didn’t locate them,” Hughes said. “That’s just basketball. Ty Jerome made things happen.”
The game marked the third time since early February the Cavaliers played on the road on a Monday night after a Saturday home game, and they won the first two in that scenario — 69-61 at No. 5 North Carolina on Feb. 11 and 64-58 at No. 20 Virginia Tech on Feb. 18.
TIGHT FIRST HALF
Syracuse’s zone forced eight turnovers in the first half — the Cavaliers average 9.2 a game —and the Orange took a 34-32 lead into the break, despite allowing Virginia to hit 8 of 12 3-pointers. Syracuse had the biggest lead of the period, 31-25 with 3:54 left after Buddy Boeheim hit a 3-pointer off a feed from Oshae Brissett at the top of the key. The score was tied four times and Syracuse held a 12-2 edge in the paint and had nine second-chance points to three for the Cavs. Jerome, Hunter and Guy each had 10 points in the half. Virginia committed only three turnovers in the second half.
HE SAID IT
“Our defense broke down and we allowed them to shoot. They’re going to make shots. It was the worst it’s ever been since I’ve been here,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who’s in his 43rd year.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are purring and their long-range game is a real equalizer as they seek their second straight ACC title.
Syracuse: Although the Orange lost, they have three wins over ranked teams and should be a lock for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia: The Cavaliers host Louisville on Saturday in their regular-season finale.
Syracuse: The Orange finish the regular season at Clemson on Saturday.
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