Top-seeded Virginia collapses late, loses 68-62 to Syracuse
CHICAGO (AP) Virginia guard London Perrantes sat slumped next to his locker and spoke in soft tones.
There was no Final Four for the Cavaliers. Just a brutal collapse against Syracuse on Sunday.
''I have no idea what other people are thinking or feeling,'' Perrantes said. ''I think more of shock is probably the word.''
Who could blame them?
The top-seeded Cavaliers bowed out with a painful 68-62 loss to 10th-seeded Syracuse in the Midwest Region final of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
They led by as much as 16 early in the second quarter, by 15 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining and by nine with 7 1/2 to play.
Then, Syracuse ran off 15 straight points. And in a flash, a 58-49 lead turned into a 64-58 hole for Virginia with 3:27 remaining.
The Cavaliers (29-8) never recovered after that. Instead of heading to their first Final Four since 1984 and third overall, instead of hitting the 30-win mark for the third straight year, they walked off on the short end after the Orange hung on in the closing minutes.
''Joy will come in the morning for what these guys have established for Virginia basketball,'' coach Tony Bennett said.
Virginia sure has come a long way in his seven seasons. And had the Cavaliers hung on, he and his dad Dick would have joined the Thompsons at Georgetown as the only fathers and sons to coach teams to Final Fours. Dick Bennett led Wisconsin there in 2000.
Instead, Syracuse is headed to its sixth Final Four and fifth under Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim, who was suspended for nine games as the result of an NCAA investigation.
Perrantes scored 18 points - 15 in the first half - and Virginia simply could not handle Syracuse's press down the stretch.
The Orange were among the final teams to get invited to the NCAA Tournament after a rough closing stretch. But they keep advancing.
Malachi Richardson scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half to help the Orange keep their improbable run going.
He hit two 3s and scored 10 points during the 15-0 run, nailing one from long range to start it and capping it with a layup. Syracuse, meanwhile, rattled Virginia with its press down the stretch.
The Cavaliers had a chance to tie in the final seconds after Michael Gbinije went 1 for 2 at the line. But Devon Hall missed a 3-point attempt and Tyler Lydon and DaJuan Coleman combined for three free throws to close it out for the Orange.
Syracuse (23-13) becomes the first 10 seed to make the Final Four and just the fourth double-digit seed to get that far. It is the lowest seeded team to reach the national semifinals since VCU in 2011, according to STATS.
As for Virginia?
''Does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely,'' Bennett said. ''I will look back through stuff. I'll watch the film, and I'm sure there will be things I'll look at and all that stuff will come.''
But he was also stressing positives, trying to stay upbeat even as the disappointment was impossible to miss.
Isaiah Wilkins and Marial Shayok sat staring at the floor in the locker room afterward. It wasn't easy for ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who struggled to score 12 points on 2-of-14 shooting in his final game.
''You know, it is difficult, but at the same time, you start to reminisce,'' he said at the podium.
''You start to remember all the good times you've had, and you start to realize how special these guys sitting next to you and on the court with you, how much they mean to you, how much your coaches mean to you, how much you've learned from them, and just how much you've enjoyed your experience and your college career,'' he said. ''Sometimes we get caught up so much and playing the game, trying to win every game, being so focused. I'm a very locked-in guy, rather than just smelling the roses, and now we can smell the roses. We can enjoy what we've established.''
Syracuse: Led by Roberson, the Orange won the rebounding battle, 36-34. ... Syracuse also made the Final Four in 1975, 1987, 1996 and 2003.
Virginia: The Cavaliers had won three in a row against the Orange. ... The Cavaliers committed 13 turnovers.
Syracuse takes on the winner of Notre Dame-North Carolina in the Final Four.