Virginia-Syracuse Preview

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Jim Boeheim, now in his 41st year as the Syracuse Orange head coach, called Wednesday’s 100-93 overtime win at North Carolina State “the best comeback that I can remember that we’ve had.”

Boeheim has long career, but a short memory. Just last March, he said the same thing after the 10th-seeded Orange rallied from 16 points down in the second half to stun the No. 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers 68-62 and advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.

Surely, the Cavaliers have tried to forget that game. But with Syracuse next on their schedule, the Cavaliers were asked about that collapse against the Orange even before the ink dried on the stat sheet from their 71-48 romp over Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

“Thanks a lot,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said, smiling. “I’ve gone to a lot of therapy and I’m over that, and you brought it up.”

“I haven’t thought about it ’till you brought it up right now, and now my heart’s pounding,” senior guard London Perrantes said.

No. 9 Virginia (17-4, 7-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) will visit Syracuse (14-9, 6-4) at noon Saturday at the Carrier Dome. After blowing an 11-point halftime lead Sunday and losing on a tip-in at the buzzer to reigning NCAA champion Villanova, the Cavaliers rebounded against Virginia Tech with its sixth win in seven games and its most lopsided win over the Hokies since 1991.

“Every game we play from here on out, they’re all highly charged,” Bennett said. “Sunday’s game was a hard-fought game, a tough loss. We took a lot of good things from it and tried to grow from the areas where we weren’t good, knowing the significance of this (Virginia Tech) game with a quick turnaround. I like how we responded.”

The Orange, meanwhile, did it the hard way against North Carolina State, falling behind by 16 with less than nine minutes to play. The Orange rallied and sent the game into overtime when point guard John Gillon made what Boeheim called “a virtually almost impossible shot” — an off-balance 3-pointer from the wing that went through the hoop with 1.1 seconds remaining.

Gillon, a fifth-year senior transfer from Colorado State, shot 10 for 13 from the floor, 9 for 10 from 3-point range and 14 for 14 from the foul line to score 43 points — tying Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis for most in the ACC this season and the most by a Syracuse player since Gerry McNamara, now an Orange assistant coach, tallied 43 against Brigham Young in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

Gillon, who scored Syracuse’s final 13 points and 21 overall in an upset win over then-No. 6 Florida State on Jan. 28, has led an Orange resurgence after the worst 20-game start (11-9) in Boeheim’s tenure. Syracuse won three consecutive games, showing a grit that wasn’t there through the first 20. Before Wednesday, Syracuse hadn’t won a true road game since beating Boston College on Feb. 14, 2016.

Now the Orange return home, where they are 13-2, outscoring opponents by an average of 17.2 points. But while ACC home teams are winning two out of every three games this season, Syracuse’s rejuvenated offense must solve Virginia’s stifling man-to-man defense that leads the nation by allowing just 53.4 points per game.

Players to watch Saturday include Syracuse fifth-year senior guard Andrew White, who is averaging 26.3 points per game in the last three games; and Cavaliers junior forward Isaiah Wilkins, the stepson of NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, who has reached double figures in five of the last six games and scored a career-high 15 points with nine rebounds against Virginia Tech. But as with most games, this one should be decided by the play of the point guards, the steady Perrantes (12.0 points per game, 3.9 assists per game) and the red-hot Gillon (10.4 ppg, 5.3 apg).

And revenge, Perrantes insisted, won’t be a factor.

“It’s just another game, really,” Perrantes said. “As hard as it is to say, it’s just another game.”