Wildcats Get Juiced by Orange, Growing Pains Continue for Villanova as Syracuse Remains Unbeaten
Here’s the Scoop, Fair or not, every game this season has been like Christmas for fans of the 18-0 Syracuse Orange. It’s been far from the same for Villanova Wildcat faithful this season and after getting served so badly tonight that they might as well have been playing a team of Waiters, there’s little else to do but try to Melo out and accept that this is going to be an off year.
Villanova came into the game on Wednesday with a record of 8-8, having just won their first Big East game of the season on Sunday against DePaul. Syracuse entered the game 17-0, ranked as the #1 team in the country.
Just a year or two ago, this game at the Wells-Fargo Center would have been a complete sell-out. It would have been a clash of Big East powerhouses, clawing for a spot atop the Conference. But that was then, and this is now. Tonight’s crowd of almost 15,000 was weighted in Syracuse’s favor (several loud chants of “Let’s Go Orange” could be heard throughout the game), and large sections of the upper level were completely empty.
At first it seemed as if the Wildcats were unaware that they weren’t supposed to hang with the Orange. Villanova came out strong and, after trailing Syracuse by two buckets, tied the game at 14-14. Unfortunately for Nova Nation, the Wildcats have been much like the weather in the Philadelphia area this winter. Although they started the game on a warm streak, they suddenly went icy cold without warning. Syracuse rattled off twelve straight points, and closed out the half on a 29-10 run, to stretch their lead to nineteen, 43-24.
Dion Waiters led Syracuse in the first half, hitting 5 of 7 field-goal attempts (including two from down-town) for 14 points. He also led the team in rebounds in the first half with 4. As a team, Syracuse shot just over 47% from the field in the first half, hit 7 of 10 free-throw attempts, pulled down 24 rebounds, and had 9 assists to 5 turnovers.
Mouph Yarou led Villanova in scoring and rebounding at the break with 8 points and 6 boards. Ty Johnson connected on both of his three-point attempts but the rest of the team went 0 for 7. Nova shot just under 27% from the field, hit 8 of 13 free-throws, tallied 17 rebounds, and had 8 turnovers to just 5 assists.
Things began to look up for the Wildcats about seven minutes into the second half. Nova cut the lead from 19 to 12 and had the ball, but were unable to capitalize. Syracuse quickly regained a firm control of the game and increased the lead to 20. Despite better play in the second half (37% from the field, 4 of 11 three-pointers, 12 of 15 free-throws, 8 assists to 6 turnovers, and 24 rebounds) Villanova was clearly outmatched and eventually lost the game 79-66.
Waiters was the game’s leading scoring, finishing with 20 points. James Southerland also chipped in 15 points for the Orange. Baye Moussa Kelta finished with 7 rebounds to lead the team, and Scoop Jardine had five assists (to go along with his 8 points).
For Villanova, Yarou led the way with a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds). Despite hitting just 2 of 10 from the field, Yarou connected on 8 of his 9 free-throw attempts. Dominic Cheek and JayVaughn Pinkston each added 12 points of their own. Cheek also led the team in assists with 4. Maalik Wayns had a rough night, missing all 7 shots he attempted. He finished with 3 points.
Things won’t get any easier for Villanova. After losing to the conference leaders, the Wildcats now sit at 1-4 in the Big East and must travel to Cincinnati (3rd in Big East) this Saturday before returning to the Pavilion next Wednesday to host Seton Hall (2nd in Big East).
Syracuse now returns home where they will host Providence on Saturday and Pittsburgh on Monday.