PHILADELPHIA — A quick take on Syracuse’s 79-66 win against Villanova:
WHAT HAPPENED: The top-ranked Orange matched last season’s team with an 18-0 start by blitzing Nova 79-66 in front of perhaps the smallest crowd to see this rivalry at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia since the building opened in the 1996-7 season. Scoop Jardine’s running 3-point basket from well beyond the NBA 3-point stripe at the halftime buzzer gave the Orange plenty of momentum and a 19-point lead. The cold-shooting Wildcats made a run midway in the 2nd half, but it was brief and down the stretch it was simply too much of the number-one team flexing its muscle against an over-matched foe.
ANALYSIS: Too much talent, too many options for Jim Boeheim. The top 10 players in the rotation all scored, and all but three players scored in both halves. Many different lineup combinations played throughout as the Orange cruised in the second half, keyed by James Sutherland’s 13 points, shooting 44% and out-rebounding Nova 41-37.
HERO: The South Philly homeboy Dion Waiters. Playing within a long 3-pointer from where he spent much of his youth growing up, the sophomore sensation, who looks like he’s NBA-bound more and more every game, came back from a twisted ankle he suffered with 01.4 left in the 1st half to finish with a game-high 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. His emphatic dunk with 5:39 left put the lead at 65-45 and sent the Nova folks to the exits.
ZERO: With all due respect to a tradition-rich program, Villanova has been on a downward spiral since the Final Four season of 2009, not even 3 years ago. The talent level has declined and Jay Wright has made numerous changes to his coaching staff since the run to Detroit. The Cats have fallen mightily in the Big East to 1-4 and 8-9 overall with the loss Wednesday night. Even more disappointingly, the upper level end sections were empty, and the building lacked a lot of atmosphere, although the ‘Cuse play had plenty of say about that.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange look to tie a school record set in the 1999-2000 season with a 19-0 start as they return home to play Providence for the second time in 10 days on Sat, Jan. 14 at 6:00 p.m. TV: Big East Network, SNY, MASN, Cox Sports, ESPN Full Court. Online: Watch ESPN3 (subject to blackout).