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Thursday, Nov 07, 2019 at 10:25 am

Syracuse men’s basketball falls to defending national champions on opening night

By Mike Adzima

CitrusTV Basketball Reporter

Syracuse Men’s Basketball’s season opener was unlike most opening night games that college hoops fans are used to seeing. It started at 9 p.m. on Wednesday in the Dome. The Orange also faced a conference opponent to kick off their 2019 campaign, an opponent that happened to be the defending national champions, Virginia.

Both teams got off to slow starts offensively, but the Orange were never quite able to recover as No. 11 Virginia (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) walked out of the Dome with a 48-34 victory over Syracuse (0-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast). 

UVA is known for its defense, and despite the loss of key players for the 2018 team, head coach Tony Bennett had his new squad whipped into shape.

“We won’t play anybody better defensively this year except when we have to play them again,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after the game.

Wednesday marked the first game of Boeheim’s 44th season at the helm of the Orange, and his team managed to do something no other Syracuse team has done before: Put up just 34 points, the least amount of points scored in a game ever under the Hall of Famer. 

The Cavaliers’ defense frustrated a relatively young Syracuse team, comprised of newcomers and familiar faces adjusting to new roles as key players and starters. Forward Elijah Hughes was expected to have a major role in the Orange’s offense this year, and the redshirt junior did lead Syracuse in scoring with 14 points. However, Hughes suffered from the same shooting woes as the rest of his teammates on Wednesday night, shooting 4-14 from the field. 

“It’s really hard, and we didn’t get in a rhythm because of it,” said Hughes about Virginia’s defense. 

Syracuse overall shot just 23.6% from the field, making this an opening night many Orange fans will soon forget. Wednesday night was unique in how the Orange had to face an ACC conference opponent to open the year. 

For the 2019-20 season, the ACC announced that each team must play 20 conference games instead of 18. This led to several conference clashes on opening night for ACC teams such as Louisville facing Miami, UNC hosting Notre Dame, and of course Virginia and Syracuse. 

Jim Boeheim was not too pleased that his team had to face a conference opponent on the first night of the season.

“It’s stupid. It’s just a money grab,” said Boeheim. “You want to build-up to the league. The league is the most important thing, so why would you play the first game of the year in the league?”

Syracuse now transitions to non-conference play until January, facing another tough test in the Dome next Wednesday against Colgate. Last season, the Raiders won the Patriot League and made the NCAA Tournament, falling in the first round to Tennessee. The Orange defeated Colgate in the Dome last November by a score of 77-56.

mradzima@syr.edu | @mikeadzima