SYRACUSE — The Syracuse University men’s basketball team opened the 44th season under coach Jim Boeheim by missing more than 40 shots during a dismal offensive performance Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome.
Mamadi Diakite scored 12 points while Kihei Clark and Jay Huff each posted a double-double to lift nationally-ranked No. 9/11 Virginia to a 48-34 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over SU to open the season for both teams.
SU opened the season with a conference game for the first time in program history, and also played its first season opener against the defending national champion. The Orange will next play against Colgate at 7 p.m. next Wednesday in the same location.
“We just never really got movement and when we got it, we just didn’t really get any good actions off the movement, so it was a tough game, tough team to play the first game but we learn from it,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “We won’t play anybody better defensively all year until we play them again.”
The Orange made just 13 of 55 shots overall, including a 6-for-28 mark in the second half, and only connected on five of 29 attempts from behind the 3-point arc against a Virginia defense that annually ranks among the nation’s best.
Elijah Hughes scored 14 points as the only player in double figures for SU, which finished with the same amount of turnovers and made field goals (six) in the second half.
“Their defense is hard to play against,” Hughes said. “They’ve got guys who can guard the ball, they have shot blockers and good size, so it’s hard to get into a rhythm against them. It’s the best defense in the country, they’re coming off a national championship because of it. They’re really good at what they do.”
Huff scored 11 points and grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, and Clark contributed 10 points and 11 boards. Braxton Key added seven points and 10 rebounds for Virginia, which overwhelmed SU in the paint and finished with a 47-28 edge in rebounds.
Virginia utilized a 13-0 run early to seize control, and limited SU to two points during the first 11 minutes of the game. SU missed two of its first 16 shots and was never able to break out of its funk.
“We knew we had to make some shots going in and they just weren’t falling early on, and they bodied us and we started rushing shots a little,” said Buddy Boeheim, who scored seven points. “It’s something we can learn off of, we know we need to move a little better off the ball and make it easier for us on the offensive end.”
Marek Dolezaj started in place of freshman Quincy Guerrier and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Freshman Joe Girard III, a Glens Falls High School product who holds the state record for most career points, played 22 minutes in his collegiate debut, finishing with a 3-pointer and two assists while playing mostly at point guard ahead of starter Jalen Carey, who was limited to just 17 minutes.
SU was one of eight ACC teams that took part in the two-day stretch of conference doubleheader season openers on the ACC Network, which launched this fall.
The new network prompted the ACC to increase its conference schedule from 18 games to 20 for each team, and also was the primary reason for teams playing conference games to open the year.
“You never want to play the league games early, it’s stupid,” Jim Boeheim said afterward. “It’s just a money-grab, they got to schedule games for TV, for the TV contracts, and then somebody had the brilliant idea to open up the season with a league game. I don’t think it’s good. 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? It makes no sense to me.”
SU fans were greeted with an appearance by former star Carmelo Anthony, who led the program to its only national championship in 2003 as a freshman. Anthony sat behind the SU bench and received a roaring ovation when he was introduced to the crowd during the first media timeout of the game.