Top-ranked Syracuse once again read their favorite script of this season, using one dominant stretch of play to cruise past an opponent, this time knocking off Villanova in Philadelphia, 79-66. This time, the Orange (18-0, 5-0 Big East) employed a 20-2 run in the first half to take a comfortable lead over the Wildcats (8-9, 1-4), who never got the margin into single digits after that point. The SU bench was the key in the game, tallying 47 points on the night, while the hosts were gracious, committing 14 turnovers, many of them careless, and shooting 32.8 percent from the field in the game.
The Orange traded scores in the opening minutes before getting consecutive buckets to take a 13-9 lead just over seven minutes into the game. Villanova responded by tying the score at 14 just before the midpoint of the opening half. Syracuse then dropped the hammer on the Wildcats, scoring the next dozen points to trigger a 20-2 burst that put them in the driver’s seat at 34-16 with under four minutes left in the opening half. The run was part of a stretch where the SU defense tightened the screws on the hosts, forcing nine straight misses and five turnovers by Villanova. The Wildcats shook off their doldrums by bouncing back with an 8-2 run to get within a dozen, but Syracuse closed the half with seven straight points, including an exclamation point provided by a buzzer-beating three-point basket by Scoop Jardine, to hold a 43-24 lead at intermission.
The Orange tacked on the first three points of the second half to stretch their lead to its largest margin of the night at 46-24, then went into cruise control. Villanova took advantage of SU’s indifference, whittling the lead down to 52-41 with just under 12 minutes left on the clock. Perhaps feeling threatened, Syracuse jolted to life, scoring the game’s next nine points to go up by 20 again. The Orange pushed the lead out to 21 points before the hosts used a 12-3 burst to get within 72-60, but it was too little, too late, as the clock had less than a minute left on it.
Dion Waiters posted a big game in his hometown, scoring 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. Joining him in the bench scoring was James Southerland, who knocked down 13 points. C.J. Fair added nine points in a reserve role while Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph each chipped in with eight.
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