On the plus side, Madison Square Garden felt like old Big East basketball once again.
On the downside, the Orange couldn’t keep up in the second half.
The Villanova Wildcats adjusted well in the final 20 minutes while the Syracuse Orange couldn’t secure rebounds and buckets. All of that meant a three-point lead at halftime turned into a 67-53 win for Villanova.
Both teams started on fire. Syracuse and Villanova must’ve saw the prior Tennessee-Texas Tech game and pledge to not do that. The Orange made its first four shots from the floor to kickstart a fast four minutes of basketball.
Then both teams settled down as the defenses kicked in. Syracuse brought out the 1-1-3 zone that they’ve been utilizing the past couple of games. It somewhat worked as Villanova couldn’t buy a three-point bucket at all. The Wildcats had open looks and definitely took them, but none fell. Villanova went a paltry 5-28 from beyond the arc in the first half, which is 17.9%.
That doesn’t mean Syracuse went without problems in the first half. Towards the end of the half, the Orange stopped squeezing rebounds and Nova took advantage on the offensive glass. Syracuse was outrebounded 28-19 in the first half, and the entire difference was from the offensive boards. The Wildcats had 13, while the Orange had four.
The rebounding margin was odd considering the size advantage that Syracuse had over Villanova. Jimmy Boeheim took advantage of that as he continued to find size advantages in the post. The elder Boeheim son continued to back down and dominate smaller opponents in the paint. He led all scorers at the half with 11.
However, it was only a matter of time before the Wildcats started hitting three-pointers. Led by Justin Moore’s 18 points, the Wildcats took advantage of the guards at the top of the 1-1-3 and sunk the shots that weren’t falling before the break. Villanova finished the second half 8-22 from three.
What didn’t help Syracuse either was Buddy Boeheim’s cold shooting day. The younger Boeheim son couldn’t get a shot to fall. Even wide-open looks for him didn’t find the bottom of the net.
Jimmy Boeheim picked up the slack though as he continued to attack the size advantage that he held over pretty much every Villanova player. He led all scorers with 21 points.
The downside is that Syracuse continued to give Villanova second-chance points. Nova finished dominating the boards 57-36, but the big difference came from the offensive boards again. The Wildcats had 25 second-chance points on 27 offensive rebounds. The Orange only had 7 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds.
The Orange led Villanova back into the game as the Wildcats found three-point looks and secured rebounds when Syracuse couldn’t. You’d think if Syracuse could grab just half the offensive boards that Villanova did, the score would be tighter.
Alas, it’s a ranked loss in a game that the Orange felt like they could’ve won.