SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A quick take on second ranked Syracuse’s strong second half in its 78-62 victory over 8th ranked Villanova on Saturday afternoon in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 28,135, the largest of the season, at the Carrier Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: In front of victorious Texas Bowl coach Scott Shafer who sat courtside with his wife Missy and AD Daryl Gross, Syracuse (12-0) played like it had just come off an eight day layoff over the game’s initial 10 minutes, at one point trailing the hot shooting Wildcats 25-7, before regaining the lead in just over a three minute stretch behind the bulls-eye shooting of Trevor Cooney and C.J. Fair (combined five 3-pointers) to take a 38-34 halftime lead. At the first media timeout of the second half SU was on a 40-12 run, up 47-37. But back came Villanova for one more run in the final seven minutes cutting the lead to three at one point before SU held on hitting its foul shots down the stretch.
ANALYSIS:Defense, defense, defense. The ‘Cuse was sloppy in its zone early, then adjusted and forced the ‘Cats (11-1) to take some quick open jumpers and their shooting percentage dropped from almost 90% beyond the arc to under 40% in a 15 minute stretch leading into the second half. With better ball movement against ‘Nova’s over aggressive man defense, SU found the open shooter, or opened the lane for penetration by both Tyler Ennis from out top and Jerami Grant in the lane and along the baseline.
HERO: Sure, crowd favorites Fair and Cooney get their share of points (a combined 38 vs. Nova), but it all starts with the incredible steady play of Ennis. The freshman who’s showing as each game progresses that he may end up being “one and done,” knew he could take the Wildcat guards to the hoop practically at will, finishing with a nice stat line of 20 points, four defensive boards, two assists, and a steal in directing the offense.
ZERO: Other than Grant, the bench production has been practically absent, with the three other subs, Baye Moussa Keita, Michael Gbinije and Tyler Roberson combining for just six points and six boards. Starting big men Rakeem Christmas and DuJaun Coleman also failed to get rolling combining for just three points and four rebounds.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange wrap up their non-conference schedule with a Dec. 31, Tuesday afternoon tip-off on New Year’s Eve, by welcoming back former assistant coach Rob Murphy and Eastern Michigan (7-4, lost at Duke 82-59 Sat. afternoon) for a second straight season. Game Time: 3:00 p.m. ET / TV: ESPNU