What We Learned: 3 Takeaways from Syracuse’s 48-34 loss to No. 11 Virginia

Jim Boeheim coaches Joe Girard III during Syracuse’s loss to Virginia. (Mark Konezny | USA Today Sports)

By CHARLIE DISTURCO

In its season opener, Syracuse fell flat against the defending national champions, No. 11 Virginia. Offense came at a premium as both squads combined for 82 points, with the defenses suffocating the opposition.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the matchup between two Atlantic Coast Conference foes, each replacing talent that has since left for the NBA. But in the spotlight, Syracuse’s (0-1, 0-1 ACC) offense sputtered en route to a 48-34 loss to Virginia (1-0, 1-0) on Wednesday night inside the Carrier Dome.

Here’s what we learned from the defensive showing where SU head coach Jim Boeheim’s lineup decisions surprised many.

Point guard situation murky

When the starters were named on Wednesday night, it was no surprise Jalen Carey opened the game as the starting point guard for Syracuse. The former Top 40 prospect struggled with turnover and shooting problems last season but was expected to improve in his sophomore year. But Syracuse’s offense started out sluggish, scoring just two points in 10 minutes before Carey was subbed out for freshman Joe Girard III.

Girard finished the game 1-of-6 with three points, two assists and two turnovers in 22 minutes of play. Carey, in 18 minutes, also shot 1-of-6, grabbing five rebounds with two points. It might’ve been out of necessity that Boeheim went to Girard — Carey is not a great shooter and points were at a premium Wednesday night — but after game one, it seems as though Carey’s starting gig could be in danger.

Quincy Guerrier makes non-impact in debut

It was a surprise to see Quincy Guerrier not in the starting lineup, as Boeheim opted for the veteran Marek Dolezaj over the Canadian freshman. Guerrier, entering the year as a first round pick in Jeff Goodman’s early mock draft, soon entered the game but failed to make any impact.

The 6-foot-7 forward played just 13 minutes, missing all four of his shots — three 3s — and not even grabbing a rebound. Guerrier was the talk of camp in preseason but in his first NCAA action, he looked like a lost freshman.

Guerrier should get more minutes with nonconference play rolling around and the schedule easing up, though it seems he may not be ready for the starting job as once thought.

Same old offense

Losing four of five starters would put a dent in any offense, but this Syracuse team was expected to flash a new look, with 3s coming often and less isolation ball now that Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett had departed for the pros.

Sharpshooters Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim opened the year with starting roles, Guerrier could stretch the floor, and both Girard and Brycen Goodine provided much-needed shooting relief off the bench.

The Orange, however, scored just two points in the opening 10 minutes and didn’t hit the double-digit mark until 4:49 remaining in the first half. The five shooters finished a combined 8-of-40 and hit four 3s in 27 attempts. Most of those shots came in isolation, with the shot clock nearing zero — remind you of something?

It’s still early and opening the season against a defense-savvy squad like Virginia would lead to struggles for any team. But Wednesday night, Syracuse looked lost with the ball in their hands.

“You don’t want to play them the first game,” Boeheim said after the game on the Syracuse Orange YouTube channel. “Offenses take a little bit more time.”

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