It wasn’t fun for No. 3 Syracuse Orange fans Saturday afternoon as their squad lost to the No. 7 Villanova Wildcats, 83-72, in a Big East Conference game at the Carrier Dome. The Orange (18-2, 5-2 Big East) are now on a two-game losing streak.
In retrospect, it was good to see junior forward Kris Joseph back in the lineup and playing well. Joseph got out of the gates quickly by scoring seven of SU’s first nine points. However, the forward went scoreless for the remainder of the half as Syracuse trailed 40-29 at the break. Joseph kicked it into "go-to guy" mode in the second half by netting 14 and leading a rally. However, No. 32 couldn’t finish the job and SU’s comeback stalled at 69-65 with about two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. ‘Nova closed out the victory with outstanding free-throw shooting (22-for-24 overall and 12-for-12 in the games’ final two-and-a-half minutes).
The loss can't be pinned on Joseph. Senior starting point guard Scoop Jardine, who went 1-for-8 from the field, committed two turnovers and dished out just two assists, is the one to snarl at. Jardine’s and SU's perimeter defense wasn't good either as the Wildcats shot 8-for-13 from 3-point land in the first half and 11-for-24 overall.
However, Jardine isn’t the only one to blame. The SU bench, which shot just 5-for-17 (29 percent) from the field, did absolutely nothing. Usually, when freshmen center Fab Melo leaves the game, freshman spark plugs Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair do their thing. Not today. 'Nova's senior pair of guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher, along with sophomore guards Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek owned the Orange young guns. And, when Waiter, Fair and Jardine aren’t playing well, Syracuse isn’t going to win many games.
Another great game by senior forward Rick Jackson, who posted 16 points and 15 rebounds to earn his 13th double-double of the year. SU actually outrebounded ‘Nova, 32-26, but didn’t get the important ones.