Two Big East Conference foes, the Syracuse Orange (No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) and No. 14 Villanova Wildcats, square off Monday night at The Pavilion in Philadelphia, PA. The Orange (22-6, 9-6) and Wildcats (21-6, 9-5) are each trying to find some sort of rhythm before the postseason begins. Both teams got off to a decent start last week, as SU earned two victories at the Carrier Dome, while 'Nova earned two road victories last week.
On Saturday afternoon, SU needed overtime to beat the scrappy the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 84-80. The victory was the second in a row for Syracuse, but just the fourth in the last 10 games. Currently, the Orange are in seventh-place in the coference standings. The Wildcats also needed an extra five-minutes Saturday, but downed the DePaul Blue Demons, 77-75. 'Nova now sits in a three-way tie for fourth place in the standings with No. 16 Louisville Cardinals 20-7, 9-5) and No. 23/25 St. John's Red Storm (17-9, 9-5).
As of Monday, Junior forward Kris Joseph, 15 points per game, is the Orange's leading scorer. Joseph netted a team-best 21 points Saturday against Rutgers. Senior forward Rick Jackson has been SU's most consistent player. Jackson, who is averaging 13 ppg and 11.2 rebound per game, posted his 17th double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds and a collegiate-best seven blocks) against the Scarlet Knights. Sophomore guard Brandon Triche and freshman forward C.J. Fair are both emerging as large contributors to SU's offense. In their last four games, Triche is averaging 17.3 ppg, while Fair has posted 12.0 ppg.
According to SB Nation's The Nova Blog, senior guard Corey Stokes will start Monday, despite suffering a turf toe-like injury on Saturday against DePaul. Currently, Stokes is averaging 14.6 ppg and is shooting 41.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. However, if Stokes isn't 100 percent healthy, teammate senior guard Corey Fisher proved Saturday he can carry the Wildcats on his back. Fisher finished with a season-high 34 points and knocked down the game-tying 3-point at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. Sophomore guard Maalik Wayns, who scored a game-best 21 points in a 83-72 victory over SU, Jan. 22, is averaging 13.4 ppg, but shooting just 24.2 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
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