On Friday, Brent Axe asked me if I thought Saturday's game against Villanova was a "must-win." My answer is that it was not a must-win but in the wake of the Pittsburgh loss, it would be a validating win for the Orange. Validating because it was reinforce that we are still a top team. Validating because we can control our home-court advantage that so many folks seem to think extends the Northeastern seaboard. Validating the idea that we are a Top Five team. Validating because a team that started the season 18-0 wouldn't suddenly be 18-2.
Validation would not come on Saturday as Villanova topped the Orange 83-72 in the Dome in front of 33,736.
We know that the greatest enemy of the 2-3 zone, or any defense, is the unstoppable three-pointer shooter who can't seem to miss even if he tried. And such a shooter emerged in the first half today. His name was Maalik Wayns.
Maalik Wayns scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half, as seventh-ranked Villanova built a big lead and held off a late Syracuse charge to earn an 83-72 victory over the third-ranked Orange at the Carrier Dome.
Villanova "hit a lot of shots, man" as Dion Waiters put it after the game. And that's the easy way to sum things up.
Sure, Kris Joseph had a great game and re-confirmed his spot atop the scoring food chain. And of course Rick Jackson got a double-double...as usual. The run the Orange made late in the second half breathed life into a building that had long ago lost interest in the game and seemed to give SU a chance to steal the win.
Of course, that didn't happen. And the issue begins and ends up top with the guard play. To say Scoop Jardine had a bad day would be an understatement. That we're this far in to his junior season and his leadership is being openly questioned, well, that's just disappointing and cause for major concern.
"I thought our point guard play was not good today," Boeheim said. "We can’t win with that kind of play. We gotta get better leadership at that position. And we didn’t get it today. We were trying to score more than we were trying to get the team in stuff."
Scoop ended up sitting the final six minutes of the game. A lot of Syracuse fans kinda wish that would have been thirty-six. Especially after watching coop (and Dion) try to be the heroes rather than try to create a team offense.
"I feel like we were trying to score more than we were trying to get the team in stuff," Boeheim said.
Waiters had some moments but was ineffective for the most part. Dion is quick to blame the refs but he doesn't want to blame the refs.
"Coach just told me to go out there and take over – make plays," Waiters said. "Unfortunately, the calls weren’t going my way. Every time I shot the ball, I got hit on my arm. I didn’t get the call I wanted, but can’t say I can blame it on the refs."
Though to be fair, the refereeing was Jim Burr-esque awful. Mostly because Jim Burr was indeed reffing the game. The Wildcats ended up getting a massive advantage at the free-throw line, which is helpful when you're the best free-throw shooting team in the Big East.
Villanova entered Saturday’s game as the best free throw shooting team in the Big East. The Wildcats were making 76.9 percent of their free throws.
That number will improve after Saturday’s showing in the Carrier Dome. Villanova sank 22-of-24 from the free throw line. That’s 92 percent. The Wildcats outscored the Orange 22-8 from the line.
Now we wait. The Orange are going to tumble in the rankings after losing twice this week. Considering both losses came to top ten opponents and they still have a very healthy 18-2 record, I'm going to guess the Orange fall into the 12-14 range. I wouldn't be too shocked to see them fall a little lower but anything past that will be a little crazy.
Kudos to Rick Jackson. He became the sixth player in SU history with 1,000 points, 800 rebounds and 200 blocks, joining Derrick Coleman, Roosevelt Bouie, John Wallace, Rony Seikaly and Etan Thomas.
And kudos to Syracuse fans who came out in droves, falling short of the all-time record by a mere 900 or so. I guess the lesson is, always strive for 34K. When we make it to 34K, we're undefeated against the Wildcats. It's when we're in the 33K range that we seem to have issues (today and GMac's final game).
Links below. Meh...
- SU-Villanova Recap: The Dark Side...Brent Axe
- SU-Villanova Recap: The Sunny Side...Brent Axe
- SU-Villanova Recap: This, That, and the Other Thing...Brent Axe
- Villanova is the latest team to solve Syracuse's zone...Mike Waters
- postGame: Villanova 83 Syracuse 72...The Nova Blog
- Villanova Hands Syracuse Second-Straight Loss With 83-72 Victory...SB Nation NY
- Villanova’s frontcourt too much for Orange...SU Juice Online
- SU/’Nova: My Uniformed, Ill-Thought Out Postgame Musings...Otto's Army
- While the Orange had a chance to win down the stretch, the better team did win in the Dome...Bud Poliquin
- Coach is right, Syracuse basketball team not that good (yet)...UticaOD.com