Virginia returned to victory column Saturday night when they defeated Syracuse at the John Paul Jones Arena to cement Tony Bennett as the most successful coach in program history. The Cavaliers led by 23 points in the second half but a goalless losing streak of over seven minutes allowed the Oranges to eventually reduce the lead to 7. The Hoos survived and won with a final score of 73-66, with Armaan Franklin 16 points clear the way.
Here are five takeaways from Virginia’s third ACC win of the year.
Tony Bennett is pretty good at his job and Jim Boeheim still doesn’t have an answer for him after 14 matchups
Of course we already knew he was a great coach, but now it still feels like reminding us how great he was when he was in Charlottesville. With Saturday’s win over Syracuse, Bennett overtook Terry Holland for the most wins in program history at 327. Holland went 326-173 in 16 seasons and Bennett is now 327-120 in the middle of his 14th year at the top.
Bennett took over the Virginia program prior to the 2009-2010 season, going 15-16 that year and 16-15 the following year. Since then, not only has Bennett not had a losing season, but he has finished all but one season with a record of 11 games or more over .500 and missed the NCAA tournament only twice. Oh, and he also won a national championship in 2019 in case anyone forgot.
Saturday night’s win was the fourth in a row against Syracuse and put Bennett at 11-3 all-time against the Orange. Amid Syracuse’s 13-0 second-half run, Virginia fans may have flashbacks to the 2016 Elite Eight match between those two teams. In this edition, the Hoos were able to defend the victory.
Virginia has had the Syracuse number in recent years and has had some memorable performances since that fateful night in 2016. Tony Bennett has put together a fantastic game plan for the Orange year after year, best demonstrated in March 2019 when the Hoos hit 18 threes en route to a 26-point blowout for the Orange up in New York.
Saturday’s three-point shootout resembled that game in part, and for a while it looked like the Cavaliers would run away with the game. While that wasn’t the case, most of the evening’s offensive performance was worked out to near perfection.
The Cavaliers dissected the 2-3 zone, found looks from the rim and from deep, and rarely found themselves trapped in the zone or along the baseline. Bennett and his staff did an excellent job preparing the Hoos for the Orange’s unique defense. The team knew where the holes and weaknesses are in the zone defense and they uncovered it most of the night. At times, the Virginia offense could have been mistaken for one that constantly has to contend with an opponent playing a 2-3 zone.