Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
The Wildcats did what no other team could this season: beat SU in the Dome. The Orange started the year 12-0 at home before Saturday's dramatic defeat.
That's really the only way I can begin to sum up the 3 OT heartbreaking loss in the Dome.
The Syracuse Orange (22-6, 10-5 Big East) lost 77-75 to the Villanova Wildcats (19-9, 8-7) in SU's first triple overtime game since Dec. 1998.
Syracuse seemed to be one basket or one stop away from sealing the game, but it never came. The Wildcats were down two with just ten seconds left in regulation. Devon Kane dribbled the ball at midcourt and saw a seam in the middle of Syracuse's defense. She drove through the lane and tied the game at 52 with just 1.8 seconds. Carmen Tyson-Thomas caught a half-court lob, but couldn't pull off the Christian Laettner miracle. Two Wildcats surrounded CTT and she couldn't get a shot off.
In the first overtime, SU was down five points with just ninety seconds to go. Senior Lacie Hall drove through the lane for a lay up to cut the deficit to 58-55. On Villanova's next possession, Laura Sweeney missed a three, which could have iced the game. After an SU timeout, CTT curled around Hall at the top of the key and hit a game-tying three with 13 seconds left. Sweeney had another chance to put the game away on the other end of the floor, but Kayla Alexander blocked her lay up attempt inside with seven seconds left. Tyson-Thomas grabbed the ball, drove the length of the floor, but her contested lay up was no good.
In the second overtime, Villanova had a 64-62 lead with three minutes left. Alexander scored, was fouled, and made her free throw. On the next possession, Alexander hit a short jumper to give SU a three point lead. Villanova's Rachel Roberts then tied the game back up with a three pointer.
With 11 seconds left, Brianna Butler inbounded to Hall. Hall weaved her way through the Wildcat defense, but missed a lay up in traffic. Alexander grabbed the rebound and had a chance for a put-back lay up, but it wouldn't fall either. It was just one of those days for the Orange.
"That could have been the game right there, so obviously it sucks," Alexander said. "It’s frustrating missing an easy lay up."
"We were just meant to win today," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "I don't know why, but we were."
In the third overtime, the Orange was down five with just over a minute left. Rachel Coffey passed to CTT, who hit another clutch three to keep SU in the game. With seven seconds left and SU down two, Coffey missed her attempt at a go-ahead three. Devon Kane missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and SU had one last chance. But this time, it didn't go. Coffey missed a final three point attempt and the game was over.
"Every last second shot you’re like, ‘Man, I hope that goes in,’" CTT said. "Sometime it falls and sometime it doesn’t and this is unfortunately one of the times when it misses."
Syracuse now has an all-time record of 15-40 versus the Wildcats.
"It just seems that certain teams have success against certain teams...and we have success against them," Perretta said.
The Wildcats match up well with Syracuse because they play a very different style of basketball. Villanova came into the game with only 57.5 ppg, but only give up 51.4 ppg, good for second-fewest in the Big East.
Villanova's meticulous offense had two benefits: it limited SU's offensive possessions and minimized the risk of turnovers and thus, Orange transition scoring. Oftentimes, the Wildcats passed four or five times on a possession and didn't shoot until the shot clock neared zero.
SU leads the Big East in steals, but was held to just 4 on Saturday and 7 points off turnovers. Villanova came into the game averaging a conference best 11.1 turnovers per game.
Syracuse is on a three game losing streak and the tournament no longer seems to be a sure thing.
"I worry about it everyday," coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game. "We've been on both sides of it."
Hillsman, Alexander, Hall, and CTT all said they had never been a part of game like this one.
"We gave our best effort and put everything on the floor, but a loss is always heartbreaking," CTT said.
Alexander and Tyson-Thomas both had a team-high 22 points. Hall had 14 points and nine boards. For the Wildcats Laura Sweeney scored 29 points.
Syracuse doesn't have much time to recover from the loss. On Monday, SU hosts Louisville.
"We don't have time to belabor on this game," Hillsman said. "We have to move on, on Monday."