After shooting a combined 4-for-20 in Syracuse’s first three games of the season, there was cause for concern that Syracuse’s sharp-shooting guard, Andy Rautins, had lost his touch.
But Rautins erased all doubt of any kind of slump in Syracuse’s (6-0, 0-0 Big East) 73-70 victory over Virginia (3-2, 0-0 ACC). The redshirt junior led the way with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting from 3-point land, including two 3-pointers to key a 20-to-6 second-half run, as the Orange overcame an 11-point halftime deficit.
It was the third straight solid outing for Rautins, who since his first three games, has shot a combined 12-for-26 (46 percent) against Florida, Kansas and Virginia.
“Obviously when we have Andy out there in a small lineup, we have a weapon,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a hard guard for the other team.”
Syracuse appeared sluggish in the opening half, as Virginia opened with a 10-3 run and built a 13-point lead. The Cavaliers shot 47 percent from the field while limiting Syracuse to just 36 percent.
Virginia also sealed off the interior for Syracuse, as center Arinze Onuaku was held without a first-half field goal.
“We’ve just been awful in the first half, particularly in the last two games,” Boeheim said. “We take the first half to try to figure out what we should do in the second half, I guess.”
Boeheim’s message halftime was clear: More patience on offense; more aggression on defense.
Trailing 40-29 at halftime, Syracuse heeded Boeheim’s message and stormed back, keyed by Rautins. The Orange was able to take a two-point lead with just under eight minutes left on the heels of Rautins’ sharpshooting.
Rautins was freed up to take the shot from a set dubbed the “3-play.” It involved Rautins running through a double-screen on the baseline and receiving a pass when Rautins turns the corner for an open look from 3-point land.
Syracuse called Rautins number on back-to-back shots from downtown, and he delivered on both plays, as the Orange took a 58-56 lead. The Orange would not relinquish the lead after that.
“Coach had confidence in me to call on me for back-to-back plays,” Rautins said. “It felt great.”
More importantly, once Syracuse had established the long ball, Virginia began over-pursuing Rautins. Once that happened, he was able to get in the lane, twice feeding center Rick Jackson for emphatic slams during their critical run.
“The shots were good – (Rautins) knocked a down a couple,” Boeheim said. “But he made some great penetration plays and got some guys wide open down on the block.”
Said Rautins: “We got some good looks, and in turn, that opened up the lane for us and we got in and we were able to make good plays around the basket.”
The plays were good enough to spark the Carrier Dome crowd, which had been stymied in the first half.
“The crowd was huge,” Rautins said. “I don’t know how many there were, but it felt like there were 30,000 fans in here.”
As it turned out, only 22,096 were on hand, but each was happy to see Rautins back on track.
This article originally appeared on SyracuseFan.com.