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Sunday, Jan 12, 2020 at 1:15 am

Syracuse Men’s Basketball Upsets Defending Champion Virginia on the Road

By Sean Scott

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Syracuse (9-7, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) Men’s Basketball’s season was sitting at a crossroads coming into Saturday’s road trip to No. 18 Virginia (11-4, 3-2). At 8-7, the Orange were off to its worst start in 50 years and in desperate need of a big win. A second chance at beating the defending national champions proved to be just what Syracuse needed as the Orange beat the 18th ranked Cavaliers 63-55 in overtime.

While the Orange offense couldn’t get going in the season-opening 48-34 loss to Virginia at home, Saturday was a different story. The Orange hit 12 three-pointers, and the trio of Elijah Hughes, Joe Girard III, and Buddy Boeheim combined for almost 81 percent of Syracuse’s points.

But those three weren’t the only key cogs in the upset. Junior forward Marek Dolezaj filled the stat sheet with seven points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and two steals. More importantly, Dolezaj played the last 20 minutes of the game with four fouls but avoided the costly fifth foul while still making plays. Forward Elijah Hughes called Dolezaj, one of the toughest players he’s ever seen.

“He’s the toughest Slovakian I’ve ever met,” Hughes said. “He’s tough as nails. He really stuck in there, got his nose in there, got some big rebounds, got some deflections, got some steals. He got some huge assists in the overtime period as well.”

With Syracuse’s depth and size severely tested in the second half due to foul trouble, Coach Boeheim took a risk and put Dolezaj back in the game after Virginia went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. Dolezaj rewarded that decision with clutch play down the stretch, including two assists, a block, and a rebound in overtime. Boeheim said Dolezaj’s ability to avoid fouling out swung the game.

“Marek was great. He hung in there, got his hands up, played the position. He’s just a smart, tough player,” Boeheim said. “If we’re going to win [Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe] have to play then. We’re going to lose if we don’t put them back in. If they foul out, they foul out, but Marek was smart enough.”

Syracuse will look to build off of this upset win on Wednesday when they host Boston College at 6:30 p.m.

sescott@syr.edu | @TheNumberGuru