Jim Boeheim didn’t want to talk about it, even if everybody else did. He was more interested in the moment at hand.
Freshman Tyus Battle had a career-high 23 points and Andrew White also had 23 as Syracuse rallied past No. 9 Virginia 66-62 on Saturday, its second win over a ranked team in eight days.
Syracuse (15-9, 7-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended its winning streak to four games and remained in the hunt for the postseason. The Orange beat Florida State 82-72 last Saturday.
”It’s just a great win. It really was,” Boeheim said. ”I can’t emphasize that enough.”
For the fans, the game carried greater significance, and they responded by storming the court to honor the 72-year-old Boeheim, in his 41st year at his alma mater. The victory would have been his 1,000th, but the NCAA stripped him of 101 victories as part of punishment handed down in 2015 after a multiyear investigation of the school’s athletic department. That leaves Boeheim at 899, three shy of matching Bob Knight for second place all-time behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
”I think the people here feel we should not have lost those wins, and that’s probably the way most fans would feel,” Boeheim said. ”I’m not going to stand here and debate that, but obviously there’s some question about whether some of those, or all of those, should’ve been taken, but they have been. The fans are not going to accept that.”
Kyle Guy had 14 points and London Perrantes had 11 points and eight assists for Virginia.
It was the first meeting between the teams since 10th-seeded Syracuse rallied from a 16-point, second-half deficit to stun the top-seeded Cavaliers 68-62 in the Midwest Regional final of the NCAA Tournament last spring for a berth in the Final Four.
It was eerily similar on Saturday, with a freshman playing a key role with 23 points for the Orange – Malachi Richardson in the tournament and Battle on Saturday.
Syracuse trailed 34-22 at halftime and stormed back with a 19-2 run to start the second half and gain its first lead of the game, one it never relinquished.
”In the first half, they did a really good job of protecting the paint,” White said. ”In the second half, we were able to kind of spread the floor a little bit more, and it worked. We did a good job adjusting.”
Against the best defensive team in the nation, the Orange shot 14 of 19 (73.7 percent) in the second half and scored 44 points. Syracuse also displayed the late-game resolve it’s developed during the winning streak.
”They’re very good in spurts,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. ”We said let’s try to learn from last year. You can be going, but then all of a sudden they’ll get it going.”
White’s 3 from the wing tied it, Tyler Lydon followed with another, from the top of the key, and John Gillon’s fastbreak layup off a steal by Lydon gave the Orange a 41-36 lead midway through the half.
Perrantes hit a 3 to move the Cavaliers within 58-56 with 2:09 left and another to close to the gap to 60-59 with 71 seconds to play. But the Orange hit 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute to secure the victory, leaving the senior with another bitter loss.
”It’s not unusual,” Perrantes said. ”It’s the second time it’s happened.”
Virginia entered the game leading the ACC in field goal percentage (49.5) and ranked second in field goal percentage defense (38.5).
Virginia: Virginia had 12 assists on 13 baskets in the first half. … The Cavaliers were 7 of 11 on 3-point attempts in the first half, with Guy hitting all three he attempted. They finished 12 of 24.
Syracuse: With 5:22 left in the first half, Syracuse trailed 23-19 and Battle and White had 17 of the Orange’s points, while Gillon, who had scored a career-high 43 on Wednesday night in an overtime win at North Carolina State, had attempted only one shot and had not scored. … Lydon had made 33 of 34 free throws in league play and his 33 straight makes entering the game was one off the Syracuse record held by Mike Lee and Brandon Triche. Lydon missed his first attempt on Saturday.
Virginia entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing 53.4 points per game, and was second in turnovers per game (9.6). The Cavaliers had eight turnovers in the first half and 15 for the game, one off their high for the season. Syracuse scored 20 points off those miscues.
Virginia hosts No. 6 Louisville on Monday night.
Syracuse travels to play Clemson on Tuesday night.