A quick take on Syracuse’s 72-61 win over Villanova on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: With its best shooter, 6th man James Southerland, in street clothes due to an eligibility issue, the Orange offense never got going. Syracuse trailed at halftime, 29-27, but CJ Fair came out firing in the second half, pushing the Orange into a small lead that it didn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
ANALYSIS: The Orange sorely missed its 6th man’s shooting (4-14 from 3) and, surprisingly, rebounding (outrebounded 40-34). But with freshman Jerami Grant stepping ably into Southerland’s shoes, the Orange managed to claw its way to its fourth victory in conference play on the strength of its defense. Nova made a late push after the Orange went up 12, but SU managed to pull out a victory.
HERO: The second half looked like it might be a continuation of the first, with Brandon Triche picking up an offensive foul on the Orange’s first possession. Then CJ Fair went to work, tipping in a Triche miss, drilling a 3, and sparking the crowd. The game stayed close for most of the rest of the way, but Fair set the tone for the second half. Nova never recovered from his first few punches. Fair scored 9 points in the first 5 minutes of the half, finishing with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks. The Orange also got quality minutes from Jerami Grant, pressed into service as Southerland’s replacement, and DaJuan Coleman. Grant especially was impressive, scoring a career-high 13 points, including a pair of clutch free throws as Nova was threatening late. Coleman played as well as he ever has for the Orange.
Trevor Cooney, who has struggled all season, played solid defense with Triche in foul trouble. After a poor offensive game he hit back-to-back 3s with just under 6 minutes to go to break the game open for the Orange, putting SU up double digits for the first time all game.
ZERO: An ineffective Brandon Triche picked up his 4th personal foul less than 4 minutes into the second half, sending him to the bench for over ten minutes of game time. He finished the game with 10 points on abysmal 1-8 shooting, and turned it over 3 times.
It’s hard to single out one Wildcat, as the team shot 17-54 and 5-23 on 3s, and only two Nova players shot 50%. But fresh off scoring 32 against St. John’s, Villanova freshman Ryan Arcidiacono was completely neutralized, scoring 7 points on 2-8 shooting while turning it over 6 times.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will travel to Kentucky to play Louisville in a highly anticipated matchup of the top two teams in the Big East on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at 4 p.m. TV: ESPN.Corey Mallonee (Follow on Twitter @CoreyMallonee)