The loss to Pitt on Monday was a “good loss.” This loss to Villanova was unequivocally a bad one. The offense looked completely out of sync, and the defense could do nothing to contain the Wildcats’ frontcourt players. Villanova controlled the game, never trailing after taking a 7-6 lead, at the 15:50 mark of the first half.
Pace of the game
This was Villanova’s game from the early-going. Jay Wright believes Syracuse is most effective when it turns turnovers into easy fast-break points. The Wildcats prevented that from happening by valuing possessions. In the NFL, a big stat is time of possession. Basically, the best way to stop an offense is to keep it off of the field. That is exactly what Villanova did. Villanova wouldn’t begin its offense until at least 15 seconds had gone off of the shot clock. And when the Wildcats finally attacked, they did so very effectively. They didn’t work the zone quite like Pitt did, but their guards were unstoppable from the perimeter.
A game like this was bound to happen for the Orange. It seems like once a year there is a game in which the opposition just shoots lights-out from beyond the arc. The 2-3 zone wasn’t great, but it wasn’t far off from where it has been all season. Yet, Villanova made eight of 13 3-pointers to take a 40-29 lead into halftime. Maalik Wayns was the biggest culprit. Wayns, a 20-percent 3-point shooter, hit three of four from distance and made six of his seven shots in the first half for 17 points. The Orange does a good job of recognizing 3-point shooting threats and making an effort to close out on them, but I’m sure Wayns wasn’t someone who was highlighted in preparation for this game. You don’t expect a 20-percent 3-point shooter to go off like that.
I mentioned that Villanova did a good job protecting the ball. It finished with 10 turnovers and didn’t turn it over in the second half until 6:55 remaining. Villanova always has some of the best guards in the country so its play wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the unforced turnovers Syracuse committed. The Orange had three turnovers in the first three minutes and finished with 15 in the game. Fifteen turnovers isn’t far off from its average of 12, but it was the type of turnovers that was uncharacteristic. Scoop Jardine threw a simple swing pass five feet over the head of Brandon Triche; Dion Waiters threw one just after crossing half court to Rick Jackson who wasn’t expecting it, and the ball sailed out of bounds; twice poor post passes to Jackson were picked off; right at the end of the half Kris Joseph slipped after burning past his guy and was called for traveling. It wasn’t as if Villanova’s defense was forcing these turnovers; they were simply stupid errors.
Villanova made the most of its second chances, and the Orange did not. The Wildcats had seven offensive rebounds and turned those into 12 points, whereas the Orange had 15 offensive rebounds and got just 13 points off those. It seemed like every time the Orange was about to get back in it, Villanova would secure an offensive rebound, take another 25 seconds off the clock and then knock down a shot. Villanova was simply devastating.
Can you imagine what it would be like if Syracuse could shoot free throws the way Villanova can? (Dreams of a world in which puppies roam in a field of cotton candy and butterflies.) Nova got into the bonus halfway through the second half, and with the way its players convert on free throws, the chances of a Syracuse comeback were slim. Villanova knocked down 22 of 24 free throws including its final 14 attempts.
After the Pitt loss, the Orange had many positive things it could take away from the game. After this performance, there was only one positive: Kris Joseph. After missing the Pitt game with a concussion, Joseph made eight of 15 shots, including four 0f seven from long range and scored a team-high 23 points.
And now the Orange faces Seton Hall again Tuesday. But this time Seton Hall will have Jeremy Hazell who just recently came back from a wrist injury (and a gunshot wound). He’s been inconsistent since his return, but he still remains a threat from outside, and if Maalik Wayns can light Syracuse up than Hazell certainly can as well.
-Unverified record – Shortest amount of time fans had to stand until scoring a field goal. Triche scored about five seconds into the game.
-Deep bench doesn’t look so good. The bench went five for 17 for 15 points, including Dion Waiters shooting two of 12.
-There were more 33,000 fans on hand, but they did not do their part. They would get loud when Syracuse made a basket but instantly quiet down when Villanova answered. This is when the Orange needed them the most and they let the team down.
Robbie Gillies is a Senior Columnist at The Juice Online. He’s also an editor at Real Clear Sports. See more at http://www.realclearsports.com/