CHICAGO, Ill.—Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers fell to the 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange in the Elite Eight this Sunday in a heartbreaking loss that crushed many Virginia fans’ dreams of a Championship run. The Hoos lost 68-62 after leading for the majority of the game.
Virginia’s Elite Eight run this year is the best post-season appearance the team has had under Head Coach Tony Bennett, who led the team to one Sweet 16 and one second-round exit over the past two years. Both years the Cavaliers fell to the Michigan State Spartans.
While there were murmurs of a potential rematch between the two teams at the start of this year’s tournament, a first round exit for the Spartans left Virginia’s region relatively free of difficult seeds, as they faced 16-seed Hampton, 9-seed Butler, 4-seed Iowa State, and 10-seed Syracuse.
Despite demonstrating commanding wins over Iowa State and Hampton, Virginia could not hold on against the Orange, who overtook the Cavaliers in a second-half surge.
After some initial back-and-forth in the first few minutes of the game, two three-pointers by point guard London Perrantes gave the Cavaliers a definitive lead over the Orange that added to a 14-point margin at halftime. Virginia’s lead lasted until just under the six-minute mark, when Malachi Richardson hit a layup to put Syracuse up for the first time since the opening seven minutes of play.
While the Orange didn’t take the lead until Richardson’s layup, his three-pointer at the 7-minute mark began a 15-0 run that left the Cavaliers down 64-58 with three minutes of playing time remaining. A late layup by senior Anthony Gill and two made free-throws by team-leader Malcolm Brogdon gave the Cavaliers hope heading into the final minute of the game, but a missed three-point jumper by Devon Hall in the last 14 seconds left the team unable to claw back a win.
Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson was the leading scorer for the Orange, grabbing 7 rebounds and scoring 23 points, 21 of which came in the second half. In addition to giving up key points to Richardson, the Cavaliers’ own offensive stars were relatively silent. Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, generally leading scorers for the Cavaliers, came away with only 12 and 10 points respectively.
A huge offensive effort from London Perrantes gave the team 18 points, 15 of which came in the first half, and contributions from senior Mike Tobey and sophomore Darius Thompson kept the Cavaliers in the game. But Syracuse’s second-half press ran amuck of UVA’s offense and led to a 6-minute drought that would end Virginia’s Final Four dreaming.
Syracuse will go on to play fellow ACC opponent North Carolina, the only remaining top seed, in the Final Four this weekend in Houston, Texas.