EditorsNote: updates stats in fourth graf
No. 11 Virginia began its title defense with a season-opening 48-34 victory over host Syracuse in Atlantic Coast Conference action Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome.
Mamadi Diakite scored 12 points, Jay Huff tallied 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Kihei Clark contributed 10 points, 11 boards and seven assists to lead the Cavaliers. Braxton Key added 10 rebounds.
Virginia lost four starters from last year’s national champions, but the Cavs showed they can still play the same smothering defense. They improved to 88-2 when holding opponents under 50 points (24-0 under 40 points) during coach Tony Bennett’s tenure.
Elijah Hughes scored 14 points and was the only player in double figures for the Orange, who shot 23.6 percent overall and 17.2 percent (5 of 29) from 3-point range. Hughes was 4 of 14 from the floor, and Buddy Boeheim (seven points) was 3 of 12. Marek Dolezaj led Syracuse with nine rebounds.
Virginia improved to 10-1 in season openers and 11-0 in ACC openers under Bennett. Syracuse dropped to 39-5 in season openers under coach Jim Boeheim.
Syracuse pulled within six points a couple of times in the second half, but a 3-pointer by Kody Stattmann capped a 12-3 run and extended Virginia’s lead to 42-27 with 8:31 to play.
Fans began heading for the exits when Clark’s long jumper put the Cavaliers up 46-28 with 6:00 left.
The Cavaliers were up 25-19 at the break despite 10 first-half turnovers. The Orange shot just 25.9 percent from the field and 21.4 percent (3 of 14) from deep before intermission.
Syracuse started the game by missing 13 of its first 14 shots and enduring a nine-minute scoring drought as Virginia jumped out to a 13-2 lead.
The Cavaliers were the first defending champ to open the season on the road since UCLA started the 1967-68 campaign at Purdue, legendary Bruins coach John Wooden’s alma mater.
Appropriate for the tipoff of Boeheim’s 44th season at Syracuse, the Orange retired the No. 44 jersey of former All-American forward John Wallace (1992-96) at halftime.
The teams will meet again on Jan. 11 in Charlottesville, Va.
—Field Level Media