PHILADELPHIA, January 11, 2012 – The Orangemen of Syracuse came into the game undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation. For the Villanova Wildcats to win this game, they would have to play their best. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim feel that the team that plays the best that day will win. That team turned out to be Syracuse. In the first half the Orange showed why they are top-ranked, and Villanova did not bring their A-game. The result was a 79-68 victory for Syracuse in front of 14,877 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Early in the first half it appeared that Villanova would be able to play with Syracuse. The game was tied at 13 on a three-pointer by Villanova Freshman guard Ty Johnson with 11:39 on the clock. That would be the last basket for the Wildcats for over five minutes, except for a free throw by Junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou, when Freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston made a follow-up at the 5:46 mark. In the meantime Syracuse rattled off a 13 of 14 to move in front 26 – 14. After the Pinkston basket Syracuse scored the next 8 points to take a 34-16 lead with 3:51 on the clock. After cutting the deficit to 12 Syracuse ended the half with a free throw by forward C.J. Fair, a three by Philadelphia native Dion Waiters, then a 29 foot shot at the buzzer by fellow Philadelphian Scoop Jardine to send the Orange into the locker room leading 43 – 24.
The statistics displayed the disparity. Syracuse made 16 of 34 field goal attempts for 47.1%. Villanova made just 7 of 26 for 26.9%. The Wildcats committed 8 turnovers that led to 10 Orange points. Syracuse had a 24 – 17 edge on the boards, getting 8 offensive rebounds. The follow-ups from five offensive rebounds in the run gave Syracuse a 14-3 edge in second chance points. Villanova got only 3 points from leading scorer Junior guard Maalik Wayns all on free throws. Those were the only points Wayns would score in the game.
“They’re a very good team,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “When you play a team like that you can’t make the mistakes we made. You’ve got to make shots. They did a great job in their zone on Maalik Wayns. They extended on him and Cheek who adjusted and tried to drive the ball. He our best free throw shooter, and he didn’t make free throws. When you do things like against a team that good not much else matters.”
“In the first half we defended as well as we have all season,” Boeheim said.
“They have great instinct in that zone,” said Wright. “They’re prepared. They make adjustments. It’s impossible to simulate that in practice.”
The Wildcats did make a run back a the Orange behind a 13 – 4 run to cut the lead to 11 at 51 – 42 with 11:59 to play. Syracuse ended the suspense by scoring the next 9 points to move back in front 61 – 41 with 7:43 to play.
Junior forward Dominic Cheek, Freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston, and Yarou led Villanova with 12 points each. Yarou made 8 of 9 from the free throw line, and had a game-high 12 rebounds. Pinkston converted 6 of 8 free throws. Cheek had a team-high 4 assists.
“We did a good job of getting down there and getting free throws,” said Pinkston.
All ten Syracuse players scored in the first half and had at least one rebound in the game. Dion Waiters (Burlington Life Center Academy) led all scorers with 20 points making 8 of 13 from the floor and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Forward James Southerland scored 15 points. Philadelphia native forward Rakeem Christmas (Academy of the New Church) scored 5 points and took down 3 rebounds. Scoop Jardine (Neumann-Goretti) tallied 8 points and was credited with 5 assists.
Syracuse now has won 18 in a row, 4 – 0 in conference, and they prepare for home game against Providence on January 14.
Villanova is 8 – 9, and 1 – 4 in Big East play. The Wildcats travel to Cincinnati on January 14 for their next contest. The team is improving according to Wright, but still need do all the little things necessary to get better.
“We didn’t quit,” said Wright. “We have that, but guys have to understand that everything you do matters.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian