Game Notes: Villanova at Syracuse
There’s an new undisputed No. 1 in town…
by Rachel Stern
Before the game even started Scoop Jardine knew what was at stake.
Sure, a share of the Big East regular season title was up for grabs. Yes, the top two teams in the nation fell, leaving the Orange with a shot at claiming the No. 1 ranking in the country. But more than anything, Jardine wanted to make sure he and high school teammate Rick Jackson held their own against a team from their hometown.
“I told Rick ‘this is really big for us,’” Jardine said. “We were just in an article in our newspaper back home and I know everyone was watching.”
Jardine and Jackson made everyone proud. Jardine finished with 16 points off the bench and Jackson added 19 points and eight boards. Four other Orange men scored in double digits as No. 4 Syracuse routed No. 7 Villanova 95-77 in front of a record on-campus crowd of 34,616.
The Orange out-muscled the Wildcats, out-hustled them and left them hoisting threes, despite shooting just 28 percent from beyond the arc. The squad that has been a true team all year put forth its best performance of the year when it needed it most. The match-up was sold out for three weeks. ESPN GameDay was in town. People sat in seats that did not even overlook the court.
“Everyone has been talking about this Villanova game for so long,” Jardine said. “It feels great to go in there and beat them by almost 20 points. I feel like the happiest man in the world right now.”
After falling behind early in the first half, the Orange settled down. The errant turnovers ended. The team stopped forcing shots. The bigs crashed hard. And when the first half buzzer sounded Villanova hobbled into the break closing the half going 3-22 from the floor. Syracuse had a 10-point lead. They closed the half on a 20-6 run.
“We started a little bit slow,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “I thought that defensively we really started to pick it up after the first 10 minutes. We got on the boards for the last 10 minutes of the half. We moved the ball very, very unselfishly, as we have been.”
Not much changed in the second half, as the Wildcats never got closer than 6 points. At one point the Orange lead ballooned to 23. Villanova shot just 41 percent from the floor and 28 percent from beyond the arc. They hoisted 28 threes and the long rebounds resulted in easy buckets in transition for Syracuse. The Orange took advantage and out-scored Villanova 18-2 in transition.
And while the city of Syracuse could not help but think about what will come Monday when the rankings are revealed, Boeheim made sure to make it clear that his team has more important things to think about.
“We’re not concerned about anything except St. John’s,” Boeheim said. “This team has never thought for a minute this year whether we are ranked or not ranked or where our ranking is. I just told them in there that they need to have a very short celebration, a very short one.”
Big heads are everywhere. It seems almost every player has a big head in the crowd tonight.
The Dome is literally a sea of orange. People are sitting in seats that do not even overlook the court.
Orange towels are everywhere. The towels were donated by the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation. Orange balloons float through the air. The crowd is ready to go.
The ESPN GameDay crew is in the building. Rece Davis, Bob Knight, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas are at the Dome.
Former Syracuse great’s Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, Pearl Washington, Lawrence Moten and John Wallace are courtside ready for the action.
With Kansas and Kentucky losses earlier today, the buzz around the Dome is if Syracuse wins, will they be the new No. 1?
The referee Syracuse fans love to hate, Tim Higgins is refereeing tonight.
The Orange win the tip and this could be the loudest ovation the crowd of 34,616 has given all year.
The orange towels are waving furiously.
It looks like Syracuse is trying to pound it in the post early and often. The first two Orange possessions all go down low. Arinze Onuaku gets fouled deep under the basket on the first possession. Then Brandon Triche gets it inside to Jackson, who hits a hook shot from the right block. Jackson is coming off a career high 28 point-performance against Providence.
Wes Johnson hits a three and Syracuse takes an early 5-0 lead with 18:33 to play. The crowd absolutely erupts. Orange balloons go flying. Johnson hitting early is a great sign for Syracuse fans. He has struggled since injuring his right thumb against UConn.
After Andy Rautins connects on a three, Scottie Reynolds comes right back and sticks two straight three balls from way beyond the arc. After a Jackson hook shot and a couple fouls, the Wildcats are up 11-9 with 15 minutes to play.
Super-subs Jardine and Kris Joseph are set to check in with 14:44 left in the half. Joseph makes his presence felt immediately. Johnson drives, draws defenders and dishes it off to Joseph who finishes the lay in and draws the foul. Syracuse is up one with 14:30 to go.
Villanova sharp-shooter Corey Stokes checks in with 13:32 to play. Stokes was cited for public urination on Thursday and did not get the start. Jay Wright said he didn’t start because he wanted to go with a bigger lineup.
After four straight Orange turnovers, Stokes and Jardine exchange three balls. Jardine then drives down the lane and hits a left lay-up. The Wildcats are up four with 10:10 to go.
Onuaku is called for a blocking foul and Boeheim is furious. He jumps off the bench and has his hands in the air. Corey Fisher hits both free throws, as the strong guard has been very active early on. Villanova is up 25-20 with nine minutes to play in the half.
Rautins has really shown the nation he is more than a shooter this season. His passing ability has been phenomenal. He sneaks the ball in to Onuaku over two Wildcat defenders and the big man finishes and gets fouled. He air balls the free throw, but the Orange are within three with six and a half minutes to play.
Triche comes back with six minutes to play. The freshman point guard has not checked in since Jardine replaced him at the 14-minute mark. He has struggled the last few games for the Orange.
After a beautiful Reynolds hanging jumper off the backboard, Jardine thwarts the Wildcat momentum when he drains a three.
The Wildcats are struggling on the offensive end. Reynolds misses a three, Antonio Pena misses two shots in a row. Villanova is just 1-15 from the floor on their last 15 shots, but are only down two with 3:24 to play.
Rautins shows off his passing again. He drives to his left and stop at the free throw line. He delivers a perfect one handed pass to Jackson on the right block who throws it down with two hands. Syracuse stretches the lead to five with two minutes to play.
After another long miss from Villanova, the Orange are out in transition again and Rautins draws a foul. So many long Wildcat threes result in long rebounds that play into Syracuse’s zone perfectly. The guards are already up high, as they either collect the boards or get the quick outlet and are off to the races. Syracuse has put together a 14-3 run over the last four minutes and lead by seven.
But Reynolds responds. He hits a huge three from the right wing to pull within four.
Jardine does not let up. He cans a pull up jumper from the foul line in transition. The guard off the bench already has 12 points and six boards. Syracuse closes out the half on a 20-6 run and head into the break with a 46-36 lead.
Jardine and Joseph combine for 21 points off the bench for the Orange.
The transition game has been key for Syracuse. Villanova is 5-18 from beyond the arc and all the long rebounds have resulted in easy buckets in transition for Syracuse.
Syracuse is plus 11 on the glass, as they have out-rebounded the Wildcats 29-18.
Reynolds has 10 for Villanova.
Syracuse is shooting 44 percent from the floor. Villanova is just shooting 31 percent. The Wildcats only have three bench points, whereas Syracuse has 21 with just two guys playing off the bench.
Villanova is struggling to find their shooting touch. They finished the half 3-22 from the floor. They took 35 shots and 18 of those came from beyond the arc.
A good sign for the Wildcats after the break. Pena converts the easy lay-in. Then Reynolds head fakes and dishes to Fisher on the block who goes right up against Onuaku and finishes and gets fouled. Then big man Mouphtaou Yarou comes alive and finishes off a Fisher feed. The lead is cut to six, two minutes into the second half.
But the Wildcats cannot get enough stops on the defensive end. Jackson hits a jump hook and he has 10 points in the game. Rautins then hits a deep three and the crowd goes wild. Syracuse extends their lead to 11 with 15:53 to play.
After a Jay Wright timeout, Yarou collects another offensive board and puts it in off a Fisher miss. Yarou has eight quick points for the Wildcats. He even shows some range when he hits a mid-range jumper. His eight points are a career high and they have all come in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Duke transfer Taylor King is having a rough game. He has air-balled two threes and is getting demolished on the glass. Onuaku has gotten a couple easy dunk put backs right over King, who simply cannot box out the big man. After a Villanova turnover, Syracuse is up 52-65. The crowd is chanting, “Let’s go Orange.”
After a Jardine missed three, he gets his own board, misses the put back, but Jackson is there. He too misses, but Onuaku gets another offensive board and he finishes. Syracuse is just destroying the Wildcats on the glass as the Villanova big men cannot keep up with Syracuse. The Orange have a 42-29 advantage on the glass and are up 69-54 with 9:46 to play.
Pena finally responds for the Wildcats as he puts in a lefty lay-up. But the Wildcats cannot get stops. After a Jackson dunk, Rautins drives to his left and fires in a diagonal pass to Jackson for another easy dunk.
Reynolds puts in a pretty hanging jumper off the glass, but Onuaku gets a rebound off his own miss and puts it in. Onuaku has 12 points and eight of his nine boards have been offensive. Even though the Orange are up 16, Boeheim yells at Jardine and has a word with his point guard.
After a Pena jumper, all hope for the Wildcats is lost when Rautins drives from the left side, draws the defense and throws another perfect pass inside for Onuaku who throws it down and gets fouled. The crowd is sent into a frenzy and Rautins collects his seventh assist. Onuaku hits a rare free throw and the Orange lead is 75-58 with 8:13 to play.
Multiple opportunities for the Orange on the offensive end is absolutely killing Villanova. With 7:20 to play, Syracuse has collected 22 offensive boards. After King finally hits a three from the right wing, the Syracuse lead is cut to 15.
But the Wildcat press leaves the Orange unphased. In their last 57 possessions the Orange have just committed one turnover after having eight quick give-aways in the first half. Yarou has been the only bright spot for Villanova. He hits a nice hook after an up fake, but that just cuts the lead to 15 with 5:25 to play.
Rautins has 10 points and eight assists, as the fifth-year senior and rest of the Orange bench are all smiles. Rautins gets a steal and gives it to Johnson who gets it up to Jardine who finishes with a lay-in. Derrick Coleman is going nuts under the basket and is taking pictures with his cell phone.
With over two minutes to play in the ball game, the crowd is chanting, “We’re No. 1!”
The jumbotron reads- “You fans are the best!!!” The game is all but over, as Syracuse is up 89-68 with 1:51 to play.
After huge ovations for Rautins, Jackson, Johnson and Onuaku, the final score is 95-77 Syracuse.
Derrick Coleman embraces Joseph and Jardine on the court after the horn sounds.
Jim Boeheim on the crowd: “The crowd doesn’t score any points. We have to come to play. It is on us. We’ve got to play. The crowd doesn’t score any buckets, block any shots, or get any rebounds. We’ve got to play and we played tonight.”
Arinze Onuaku on the offensive boards: “They told us Pitt beat Nova because they had 23 offensive rebounds. From the beginning, Rick and I told each other that we need to go out there and dominate the offensive boards and that is what we tried to do.”
Jay Wright on the Orange: “This team is the first team that I’ve seen that is comparable to the four teams last year.”
The win clinched at least a tie for the Big East regular-season title. It also gave the Orange the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in about two weeks.