Basketball is a numbers game. There are times that the game is simply decided by who makes more shots. Syracuse made more shots, and won 69 – 64 before 18,899 at the Wells Fargo Center. Villanova shot 32.3% (21 – 65) and made just 5 of 26 three-point shots, yet trailed by one-point with 21.7 seconds remaining. The Wildcats rallied, but came up short.
“It was not a pretty game and we’ve been grinding, fighting, and scrapping,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said, “I’m proud of our guys. We ask that they give us effort, and they did. We have to find a way when we are not making shots to win. We did that in our previous games, but not tonight”
It was Villanova’s Senior Night. The Wildcats had a hard time finding the basket making only 8 of 33 shots in the first half, and making 5 of 26 from beyond the arc for the game. In the first half Villanova missed 12 straight field goal attempts from the 18:24 mark to 9:41. Senior Guard Corey Stokes was the only Wildcat player to make a three-point shot. Villanova’s Corey Fischer, Maalik Wayns, and Antonio Pena supply offense. In this game they shot a combined 7 for 34. Villanova hit eleven three’s in the previous meeting at Syracuse. The Wildcats won that game 83 – 72. Syracuse wanted to keep Villanova from shooting three-pointers in this game, and did.
“They did a great job of really contesting and taking away our threes,” Wright said. “We got the ball inside but weren’t effective. They did a good job of extending our perimeter people.”
Villanova stayed in the game by going to the foul line, and played frenetic defense. The Wildcats were 17 of 27 from the free throw line, and got 17 points on 16 Syracuse turnovers. The Orange made 26 of 55 field goal attempts.
Syracuse led 53 – 44 with 10:34 to play. Villanova began their comeback getting to within one-point three different times. Each time Syracuse answered. Stokes converted a free throw to make the score 57 – 56 with 5:28 to play. Guard Scoop Jardine responded with a three. A Stokes three-pointer brought Villanova to within a point at 61 – 60 with 2:37 left. Forward Rick Jackson made a short hook shot in the next possession. After Sophomore Forward Isiah Armwood made two free throws the Wildcats trailed 65 – 64 with 21.7 seconds to play. Syracuse threw a long pass downcourt that Guard Dion Waiters caught and took to the basket. He received a hard foul from Villanova Freshman Guard James Bell. Waiters made both free throws to put his team ahead by 3 points. Villanova tried to set up for a three to tie the game. The Wildcats kept moving the ball back and forth against the zone defense hoping to find an open shooter. Bell made a bad pass giving the ball back to Syracuse with 4.6 seconds to play.
Stokes led Villanova in his first game back from a toe injury. He had a game-high 24 points.
“It’s (the toe) is not bad,” said Stokes. “I’ll get treatment. I’m not going to think about it, and if it hurts, I’ll play through it.”
Armwood scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Wayns had 4 points playing just 24 minutes due to back spasms. Leading scorer Senior Guard Corey Fischer scored 8 points on 3 of 16 shooting.
“Were going to ride him,” Wright said about Fischer. “If he has night’s like that, we are going to go down.”
Syracuse was led by Philadelphia natives Guard Scoop Jardine and Forward Rick Jackson with 20 and 18 points. Both players came from Neumann-Goretti High School located not far from the arena.
“The Philly guys took control,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. “When they got it to one, Scoop made a three that put in position to win the game.”
Syracuse improves to 23 – 6 on the season, and the Orange is 10 – 6 in conference. Villanova is 21 – 7 on the year, 9 – 6 on Big East play. Coach Wright is upbeat about how his team will close out the season.
“We’re not as good as people want us to be, but we are close and we will get there.” said Wright.
Turning Point of the Game
Every time Villanova got to within a point of Syracuse, the Orange answered, Stokes converted a free throw to make the score 57 – 56 with 5:28 to play. Guard Scoop Jardine responded with a three. A Stokes three-pointer brought Villanova to within a point at 61 – 60 with 2:37 left. Forward Rick Jackson made a short hook shot in the next possession. After Sophomore Forward Isiah Armwood made two free throws the Wildcats trailed 65 – 64 with 21.7 seconds to play. Syracuse threw a long pass downcourt that Guard Dion Waiters caught and took to the basket. He received a hard foul from Villanova Freshman Guard James Bell. Waiters made both free throws.
Key Stat of the Game
The shooting percentages tell the story. Syracuse made 26 of 55 shots for 47.3%, while Villanova was 21 of 65 for 32.3%.
Key Players in the Game
For Villanova – Corey Stokes who scored a game-high 24 points making 7 of 13 shots, and 5 of 10 from distance. Stokes converted 5 of 8 free throws. He was clearly Villanova’s best offensive player in the game.
For Syracuse – The Neumann-Goretti duo of Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson. Jardine scored a team-high 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting, and 2 of 3 three-pointers. Jackson scored 18 points on 8 og 9 shooting from the floor. He added 4 Blocked Shots. When Villanova got to within one point, Jardine and Jackson scored baskets to blunt the charge.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
Villanova tried to tie the game late, but the turnover by Bell with 4.6 seconds to play put Waiters on the line for Syracuse. His two free throws made it a two possession game at 69 – 64. There was not enough time for Villanova after the foul shots.
Thoughts and Musings
Villanova has lost three of their last five games. The schedule remains difficult with games against St. John’s, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh up next. Villanova is still in contention for the double bye in the Big East Tournament. Coach Jay Wright believes anything can happen when you get into tournament play. However, he will judge his team by another standard. His focus is on continual improvement.
“We’re not as good as people want us to be, but we’re close and we’ll get there,” Wright said. “As long as we are going in the right direction, I’m going to be satisfied.”
It was Senior Night, a night to honor the Seniors who have given much to the program. Jay Wright prizes his seniors. It was an emotional time for them and their Coach. Congratulations to Corey Fischer, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, and Russell Wooten. Keep in mind there is a lot more basketball to play for the Class of 2011.
Written By: Glenn Papazian