The second half of Syracuse’s loss at Virginia on Saturday made it clear that the Orange need more from their reserves if they have any chance at winning at competing for a NCAA title.
The Orange were tied 40-all to Virginia with 13:55 left after a Trevor Cooney three, but Virginia’s depth and balance led them on a 35-16 run to close out the game on their way to a 75-56 win. Virginia outscored Syracuse 48-28 in the second half to earn its first ACC title since 1981.
While Syracuse’s rotation of seven-to-eight players has led them to the No. 4 ranking in the country and a 26-3 record, the Orange are lacking depth as we begin March and it could come to hurt them significantly in the NCAA Tournament.
The Orange were already reeling from the season-ending loss of DaJuan Coleman earlier this season, but with Jerami Grant sidelined with a back injury during much of the Virginia game and Tyler Ennis saddled with second-half foul problems, Virginia looked like a much, much better team than Syracuse in all facets of the game.
For a game with ACC title implications, Syracuse came out flat in the second half and they just didn’t have the horses to compete with Virginia once the Cavaliers began making perimeter jumpers.
With C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney struggling to hit shots — and with Tyler Ennis already on the bench — Syracuse couldn’t match Virginia’s hot shooting in the second half.
Foul trouble and poor shooting happens, but the injury to Grant is the more concerning future problem. The sophomore only played 13 minutes and barely registered any numbers on the stat sheet as Grant looked uncomfortable on the floor.
Syracuse will turn to Michael Gbinije and Baye-Moussa Keita for spot minutes on the bench, but if Grant is hurt and unable to produce at his normal levels, Syracuse either needs consistently great efforts from its starters or they need guys like Gbinije and Keita to step up.
Hopefully, Grant will be okay and able to produce shortly or else Syracuse could be in trouble once tournament play begins.