Jayden Gardner Leads No. 6 Virginia to Gritty 67-62 Win at Syracuse

Jayden Gardner Leads No. 6 Virginia to Gritty 67-62 Win at Syracuse

Updated: 1 month, 28 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, 23 seconds ago

The Cavaliers played far from their best basketball on the road on Monday night. But great teams find a way to win even when they aren't playing their best. 

Jayden Gardner scored 17 points and made three clutch plays down the stretch to help No. 6 Virginia pick up a gritty 67-62 victory at Syracuse on Monday at the JMA Wireless Dome, extending UVA's winning streak to seven games. 

For all the drama that would eventually unfold in this game, the first few minutes of the contest had all the makings of a comfortable victory for the Cavaliers, who started the game on a 10-2 run thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Armaan Franklin and Ben Vander Plas, prompting an early timeout from Jim Boeheim. 

The Orange then started to find some success scoring inside the UVA defense, but Virginia maintained its lead as Jayden Gardner had his mid-range jumper going early on. Kihei Clark threw alley-oop dunks to Kadin Shedrick on back-to-back possessions and Isaac McKneely hit a three-pointer to make it 23-17 midway through the first half, but then the Orange started to go on a run. Charlottesville native Justin Taylor hit a three-pointer and then a mid-range jumper and then star freshman Judah Mintz hit back-to-back jumpers to cap a 9-0 run for the Orange to give them the lead. 

In the first meeting between these two teams this season, a 73-66 victory for the Cavaliers on January 7th, Syracuse center Jesse Edwards was held to just four points on 2/5 shooting and he committed four turnovers. In the rematch 23 days later, Edwards was determined to redeem himself. The 6'11" center was a force on the inside no matter who UVA had guarding him, as neither the double team from Jayden Gardner and Ben Vander Plas nor the straight-up defense from Kadin Shedrick was effective. Edwards scored seven points in the first half, but Virginia's concentration on defending him created opportunities for Syracuse's guards to get open shots from the mid-range area. Judah Mintz had 10 points in the first half, Taylor and Joe Girard III had five points each, and another Virginia native, Maliq Brown, had six points on a perfect 3/3 shooting in the first half. 

The Orange shot a staggering 64.0% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, just barely edging the Cavaliers, who were 61.9% from the field in the first half. While Syracuse scored 26 of its 35 first-half points in the paint, Virginia managed to take a lead into the halftime break thanks to the three-ball. The Hoos hit on six of their ten three-point attempts in the first half, including two from Isaac McKneely, and Virginia held a 36-35 lead at halftime. 

While both offenses were firing on all cylinders in the first half, in the second half, both teams cooled off and executed better on the defensive end. 

Just as they did in the first half, the Cavaliers started the second half strong, putting together a 6-0 run to open a 42-35 lead, eliciting another timeout from Jim Boeheim. The Orange emerged from that timeout on fire, scoring the next 12 points to completely flip the momentum of the game. Judah Mintz sparked the run with a three-point play and then Chris Bell scored the next six as he splashed a three-pointer off of a feed from Edwards and then made three free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt by Kadin Shedrick. Edwards then scored over Shedrick in the post plus a foul for a three-point play to cap the 12-0 run, giving Syracuse its largest lead at 51-46.

Foul trouble became an issue for the Cavaliers midway through the second half, as Syracuse got in the bonus with more than ten minutes remaining in regulation. Fortunately for Virginia, the Orange left a ton of points on the table as they made just 11 of their 18 free throw attempts. Ryan Dunn finished a long alley-oop from Clark with a one-handed dunk to get the Cavaliers going offensively after they missed nine out of ten shots during the middle of the second half. 

With less than four minutes to play, the Orange still maintained a 54-51 lead and were closing in on a season-changing victory over the No. 6-ranked team in the country. Then, the Cavaliers finally got the three-ball going for them again after none of their threes had fallen for the first 16 minutes of the second half. Armaan Franklin hit a pair of big-time three-pointers to tie the game and give Virginia the lead, but Syracuse answered right back and a Judah Mintz layup tied the game at 57-57. 

Reece Beekman attacked Jesse Edwards and drew a foul, Edwards' fourth personal, and made both free throws to put the Cavaliers back in front. An offensive rebound from Ben Vander Plas led to another huge three-pointer, as Kihei Clark splashed the triple from the top of the key. Clark then made a couple of free throws to give Virginia a six-point lead with two and a half minutes left. 

The Orange weren't done yet. Judah Mintz got the basket and finished with an acrobatic layup and after UVA came up empty on its next possession, Mintz drew a foul and made both free throws to make it 64-62 with 1:47 remaining. 

Jayden Gardner missed a mid-range jumper, giving the Orange a chance to tie the game or take the lead with a little over a minute to go. Gardner then made a series of plays that nearly single-handedly won the game for the Cavaliers. Virginia left Gardner alone to guard Jesse Edwards one-on-one and Edwards tried to drive to the basket, but Gardner drew a charge, giving possession back to UVA and more importantly, giving Edwards his fifth personal foul. 

On Virginia's next possession, Gardner hit a clutch step-back jumper from the free throw line, putting the Cavaliers back up by four points with 33 seconds left. Gardner then snatched a big defensive rebound off of a missed three from Mintz to seal the victory, as Virginia went on to win 67-62. 

Gardner finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, and two steals, not to mention the three clutch game-winning plays. Kihei Clark delivered a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists and Armaan Franklin had 12 points, including three three-pointers. Ben Vander Plas added seven points, seven rebounds, and six assists. 

Judah Mintz led all scorers with 20 points on 8/13 shooting and Jesse Edwards finished with 14 points, seven rebounds two blocks, and two steals. Syracuse outscored Virginia 36-20 in the paint, but UVA had 20 points off of turnovers as compared to 11 for Syracuse, even though both teams turned the ball over 14 times. 

It was far from a pretty performance for the Cavaliers, but they still found a way to win on the road against a talented and scrappy Syracuse team, completing the season-sweep over the Orange and extending UVA's current winning streak to seven games. 

Now 17-3 and 9-2 in ACC play, Virginia plays at Virginia Tech in round two of the Commonwealth Clash on Saturday at 12pm in Blacksburg. 

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