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Syracuse men’s basketball continues conference schedule with No. 11 Virginia

Joe Girard (11) fires a shot from the free throw. The senior had 28 points in SU’s last game.
Joe Girard (11) fires a shot from the free throw. The senior had 28 points in SU’s last game.

After a hard fought 70-69 win over a struggling Louisville team, Syracuse men’s basketball is undefeated, albeit in just one game played, in 2023. It was senior Joe Girard III leading the Orange to victory, with 28 points; Girard made 7 of 18 shots from the field and 4 of 8 from downtown. The Orange have now won seven of their last eight games and stand at 10-5 (3-1 in the ACC).

“I’m just very thankful that Joe Girard didn’t want to lose the game,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We made some really bad turnovers to get down, then we fought back. Then we made a couple bad turnovers,”

So while Syracuse is coming off a win, and even has some momentum in its favor, the Orange still have a lot to work on. The schedule is only getting tougher, and that starts on Saturday when SU visits No. 11 Virginia at five on Saturday.

Virginia’s season started extremely hot, but as of late cracks have shown in the foundation. The Cavaliers started the season at 8-0, that run was highlighted with back to back wins over top 20 opponents Baylor and Illinois.

On December 17th the undefeated dream died with a loss to a talented Houston team. Including that loss, the Cavaliers have fallen in three of their last five games. Most recently, Virginia fell to unranked Pittsburgh 68-65, dropping the teams conference record 2-2.

When it comes to breaking down the Cavaliers, point guard Kihei Clark is a good place to start. The guard has been with the Cavs since 2018 and has started over 120 games in Orange and Navy. Clark is averaging close to 12 points and 6 assists per game this season, and is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. All of these would be career highs for the fifth year.

Continuity is certainly helping the Cavaliers' starting point guard. All five starters in the UVA lineup played on the team last year. Joining him in the backcourt is Reece Beekman, who SU fans remember for his game winning shot against the Orange in the 2021 ACC tournament, and Armaan Franklin.

Both of those guards also shoot well over 40% from the three point line, making this backcourt about as dangerous from distance as any that the Orange have faced. While Syracuse's three point defense will be tested, so will its interior rebounding.

Former East Carolina Pirate Jayden Gardner leads the interior attack for the Cavaliers. The forward is averaging over 11 points and 5 rebounds per game. Gardner is rebounding at a career rate and should not be taken lightly by SU, he’s averaged as many as 9.2 boards per game in his career.

The Orange will certainly be tested, but they do get to face a Virginia team that's in its toughest stretch of the season, thus far. The Cavaliers shoot the lights out from three, but if Syracuse can control the boards, opportunities can be limited. The ACC matchup tips off at 5:00 p.m. – tune in at 4:30 for countdown to tip off on WAER.