Virginia (11-4, 3-2 ACC) surrendered 12 three-pointers overall after allowing 14 combined in its first four ACC games.
Syracuse (9-7, 2-3) scored more points in overtime (20) than it did in the entire second half (19). The Orange got the go-ahead field goal 40 seconds into extra time from forward Elijah Hughes, whose three-pointer triggered a 9-0 run over 63 seconds from which the Cavaliers never recovered.
“They’ll shoot it from deep,” Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett said. “They’re one of the more dangerous threesome three-point shooters you’ll go against, and a couple times late, there was a ball screen and we were late, so there’s a number of things.
“Some on us, some on them, meaning good on them that they just hit some shots.”
Center Jay Huff led Virginia with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting but went 2 for 7 from the free throw line and committed four of the Cavaliers’ 15 turnovers. Point guard Kihei Clark added 13 points but also had four turnovers and shot just 4 for 14.
Virginia shot 31.3 percent overall, made just 7 of 31 from three-point range and had its second-fewest points this season (43) through regulation. In their season-opening win over the Orange on Nov. 6 at the Carrier Dome, the Cavaliers were held to just 48 points but still managed a 14-victory.
Syracuse, which won for the first time at John Paul Jones Arena since joining the ACC in 2013, collected its fourth three-pointer in overtime when Buddy Boeheim, son of legendary Coach Jim Boeheim, swished a shot from just inside half court as the shot clock expired.
Guard Joseph Girard III scored a game-high 19 points for Syracuse, going 5 for 11 from behind the arc.
“We’ve tried to shoot threes, but it’s hard to shoot threes against them,” Jim Boeheim said of the Cavaliers, who entered with the ACC’s stingiest three-point field goal defense (26.5 percent). “We tried the first game. We just weren’t ready for that type of defense early in the year. Tonight we were much more aggressive.”
The Cavaliers had an opportunity to win in regulation on a clean look from three-point range by Clark, but the shot missed, and Virginia was unable to control the loose ball in time to attempt a desperation heave as the buzzer sounded in front of an announced crowd of 14,133.
Braxton Key chipped in seven points and 11 rebounds, matching a game high, while playing a third consecutive game with a splint on his surgically repaired left wrist from an injury he suffered Nov. 24 that had forced the senior guard-forward to miss three games.
Key had led the Cavaliers in scoring in each of the past three games but left Tuesday’s 60-53 loss to Boston College in the closing seconds holding his left hand after bracing himself while falling.
Among the most encouraging signs that Key suffered no additional damage from that jarring tumble came with roughly five minutes left in the first half against Syracuse when he drove into lane through contact and made a contested layup.
Officials waved off the basket, however, instead calling a foul on the floor, drawing jeers from the Cavaliers’ faithful. Soon after the sequence, Key subbed out and exchanged hand slaps with teammates on the bench without favoring his wrist.
The play was one of the few entertaining moments during a laborious first half in which the Cavaliers committed more turnovers (nine) than they made field goals (eight), were assessed a lane violation and had Huff miss all three of his free throw attempts, including the front end of a one-and-one.
The largest first-half lead for either team was six points and came when the Orange went up 17-11 after a 10-2 spurt with Hughes sinking consecutive three-pointers.
Virginia went into halftime trailing 24-20, scoring its second-fewest points in a first half this season. Its lowest scoring first half came during a 69-40 loss to Purdue on Dec. 4 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge when the Cavaliers managed just 17 in a rematch of last season’s riveting NCAA tournament regional final.
“I thought we just relaxed,” Virginia senior forward Mamadi Diakite said of the lax three-point defense in overtime. “And that’s not a coaching mistake. That comes from us, the players, and I know we are young, but we just have to know that at that point in the game, with the home game, we have an advantage.
“We need to take that advantage and use it. We weren’t smart enough to do that.”
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