Both Villanova and Syracuse entered the game eager to break the streak each had begun with their last outing. A streak of the losing kind. For both the number stood at one and neither wanted to see it go to two. Villanova played to their offensive and defensive numbers in the first half, establishing an 11 point (40-29) lead going into the intermission. The last 20 minutes, an offensive festival for both (or a clinic on how to deconstruct the other team's defense?), saw the two Top 10 teams match point-for-point to the end of the game, ended at 83-72, with Villanova's 11 point first half cushion intact.
Forward Kris Joseph, back from an injury that sidelined him for Syracuse's loss to Pittsburgh, scored his game-high 23 points on 8-15 overall shooting, and 3-5 from the line. Senior Forward/Center Rick Jackson recorded a double-double (16 points and 15 rebounds) in the losing cause. Villanova was paced by sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, who scored 21 points on 6-11 shooting and 5-5 from the line in a nice bounce-back from his performance in Storrs Monday. The two Coreys, Stokes and Fisher, scored 16 points apiece, while senior forward Antonio Pena, the fourth Wildcats to score 10 or more points, chipped in 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the winning effort.
The blogosphere registered a few post games, including "postgame -- Villanova 83 Syracuse 72" from the Nova Blog and VUHoops.com posted their recap with a poll for player grades. Best I can tell the polls are still open, so go over and vote if you are inclined. All's quiet in the Orange blogosphere, a commentary-less series of videos from the Troy Nunes...blog (complemented by a commentary on 3 pointers) and some post game musings from Otto's Army excepted. The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "No. 7 Wildcats Overpower No. 3 Syracuse, 83-72", led off with Villanova's three point "zone busting" shooting, and followed with the crowd size. There are a handful of good quotes from Corey Fisher as well. The breakdown by halves...
Green highlighting identifies the good elements of Villanova's game yesterday, while red highlighting identifies elements that are below the levels the team has played to to date. Pace was the second surprise. I believed the 'Cats would push at every opportunity, preventing the Orange from getting into the 2-3 zone. 66.1 possessions is a pace Syracuse should have wanted -- it suggests Villanova would have to score out of offensive sets, and not transition. The box score confirms the Wildcats scored four points (only -- all in the second half) on fast breaks, with two coming on Maurice Sutton's jam at the end of the game.
Same Result, Two Paths
The yellow highlighting on the teams' second half ratings and four factors shows how the same efficiency can be attained by different means. Both teams scored 43 points on (about) 32 possessions, but each employed different methods to attain their result. Villanova did not convert shots as efficiently as the Orange (50.0% vs. 55.7% eFG% above), but the Wildcats limited turnovers (9.3% vs. 20.7%) and got to the line more frequently (80.0% vs. 17.1%). Though the Orange "won" in two of the four categories (offensive rebound rate -- 61.1% vs. 43.8% -- was the second category), those two were not enough to outscore the 'Cats in the second half and cut into their first half lead.
8 Minutes & 43 Seconds of the First Half...
At the 14:43 mark of the first half with the score 9-7 Syracuse, the Wildcats put on a run of nearly nine minutes during which they outscored the Orange 27-11 and built a 14 point lead (34-20) on 14 possessions...
The best sequence of possessions for Villanova in the game (1.93 points per possession equates to a 193.0 offensive rating), but actually typical for the entire first half for Syracuse (see "By Halves" table at top). Villanova was a deadly 6-7 from beyond the arc, scoring 21 of the 27 points in the run from that distance, including two streaks of 3-3 from beyond the arc. Though the Orange would outscore the Wildcats 9-6 to close out the first half, they would play virtually the entire second half from a 6-to-14 point hole, sustaining a single rally that cut Villanova's lead to four only once, at the 2:41 mark of the second half.
Records, Next Up...
Villanova upped it's to 17-2 overall, 5-1 in conference, remaining a single game off of Pittsburgh's pace. The Wildcats play their third consecutive road game next Wednesday at Providence. Syracuse dropped it's second game running, putting the Orange at 18-2 overall, and 5-2 in conference play. The Orange will host Seton Hall on Tuesday.