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UVA starts title defense with win over Syracuse

The national champs went on the road and shut down Syracuse 48-34 in their season opener.
Credit: AP
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, right, under pressure from Syracuse's Bourama Sidibe, left, protects the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Mamadi Diakite scored 12 points, Jay Huff added 11 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 11 Virginia shut down Syracuse 48-34 on Wednesday night.

    The Cavaliers became the first NCAA champion to start the next season with a true road game since UCLA opened the 1967-68 season at Purdue. The Cavaliers have a 12-game winning streak in ACC openers and are 11-0 in ACC openers under head coach Tony Bennett.

    Virginia had held the Orange to 68 or fewer points in each of the previous eight meetings between the teams and this one followed form. Syracuse shot 13 of 55 (23.6 and was outrebounded 47-28, falling behind early and never managing to stage any sort of comeback against the Cavaliers' Pack-Line defense. It marked the first time the Orange hadn't scored 40 points since 2013 at Georgetown (39).

    Syracuse lost the bulk of its scoring with the early departures of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard, who exhausted his eligibility. Elijah Hughes is the lone returning starter on a team with five freshmen and finished with a team-high 14 points, the only player in double figures.

    Virginia lost its top three players from last season's national championship team. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De'Andre Hunter departed early to enter the NBA draft. Sophomore guard Kihei Clark and senior forward Mamadi Diakite are the two returning starters.

    In Virginia's 79-53 win over Syracuse last March in the Carrier Dome, the Cavaliers matched a school record by hitting 18 3-pointers in 25 tries (72 percent), the most the Orange had ever allowed, and Hunter, Guy and Jerome were the marksmen. They were the first trio of teammates in ACC history to make five or more 3-pointers in the same game.

   That accuracy was gone in this game. Virginia shot 4 of 24 (16.7 from behind the arc. Syracuse finished just a tad better at 5 of 29 (17.2%).