Maalik Wayns scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half, and Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher each had 16 as No. 7 Villanova defeated No. 3 Syracuse 83-72.
The loss was Syracuse’s second loss to a top 10 Big East opponent in less than a week. The Orange (18-2, 5-2 Big East) also lost to No. 4 Pittsburgh on Monday.
“I told the players we’re not good enough to beat a top five team,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We can get there, but right now we’re not good enough to beat a top five team. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Wildcats (17-2, 5-1) led for almost the entire game as they took advantage of Syracuse’s sloppy offense, which had 15 turnovers.
SU’s defense — which had been its strength all season allowing 37 percent shooting from the field and 28 percent from distance — allowed the Wildcats to shoot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point land. Villanova was also 91 percent from the free throw line.
“In the first half, we were not good defensively,” Boeheim said. “We let them into the lane and let them get open 3s.”
Kris Joseph led Syracuse with 23 points in his first game back from a concussion that he suffered last Saturday against Cincinnati. Rick Jackson scored 16 points and added 15 rebounds while Brandon Triche chipped in with 14 points.
“We probably are not as good as we think we are,” Triche said. “Going into the game against anyone, we expect to win. But losing two Big East games in a row, that’s really tough.”
The Orange dropped its 10th game in the last 15 meetings between these two teams despite having a crowd of 33,736 at the Carrier Dome, the second largest on-campus crowd to see a game in NCAA history.
“The crowd, they came and supported us,” guard Dion Waiters said. “But at the end, we didn’t get the win for them.”
Jackson, Waiters and Scoop Jardine are all from the Philadelphia area. But Jardine and Waiters struggled mightily against their hometown school, as the two combined for 3-for-20 shooting from the field to go along with eight points and five turnovers.
“The guard play was not good tonight,” Boeheim said. “We didn’t make many shots from the guard spot, and I thought that was a big key in the game.”
The Wildcats were red hot in the first half from downtown, hitting eight 3-pointers as Fisher and Wayns each hit three from 3-point land. Fisher’s 3-pointer with 5:59 left gave the Wildcats a 34-20 lead, their largest lead of the game. More importantly, it quieted a Carrier Dome crowd that was subdued for most of the afternoon despite its size.
The Orange made one last push with 4:40 left and Syracuse down 13. Brandon Triche hit a 3-pointer to start the run as SU employed a full-court press. After Jackson tipped in his own miss, Joseph stole the ball from Fisher and streaked in for a thunderous dunk that capped a 9-0 SU run and pulled the Orange to within 69-65 with 2:40 left.
But that was as close as Syracuse would come, as Villanova went a perfect 12-for-12 from the line the rest of the way. For the game, the Wildcats shot 91 percent on 22-of-24 shooting from the line.
“We had moments of greatness but then we broke down,” Jackson said. “We kind of settled for jumpers, and that is what they wanted us to do. They were more aggressive than us today and it showed.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.