Senior point guard Scoop Jardine netted a team-best 20 points Monday night to propel the Syracuse Orange (No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) to a gritty 69-64 victory at the No. 14 Villanova Wildcats in a Big East Conference contest in Philadelphia. Jardine added six assists and four rebounds, while teammate senior forward Rick Jackson tallied 18 points and four blocked shots. Syracuse is now on a three-game winning streak.
Syracuse (23-6, 10-6 Big East) survived another Big East scrum thanks to Jardine, who at one point netted six straight points in the second half, and two clutch free throws from freshman guard Dion Waiters, who finished with seven points. Villanova (21-7, 9-6), which trailed 49-40 early in the second half, had trimmed SU's advantage to just 55-54 with 4:28 to play.
However, Jardine answered with a 2-point runner, a free throw and a 3-pointer that extended SU's margin to 61-56 with 4:44 to go. 'Nova battled back and shrank its disadvantage back to one-point, 65-64, with 21.7 seconds remaining after sophomore forward Isaiah Armwood made two free throws. Waiters, who missed the front-end of a one-and-one a possession earlier, was fouled again, but this time nailed both attempts to push Syracuse's lead to 67-64 with 14.7 seconds left. The Wildcats failed to get a shot off on their next possession and fouled Jackson on a loose ball. The 50.9 percent free-throw shooter made both attempts from the charity stripe and cemented the victory.
'Nova senior guard Corey Stokes netted a game-best 24 points, including five 3-pointers. Stokes, 5-of-10 from behind the 3-point arc, finished with the only Wildcats 3-balls. The rest of the team finished 0 for 16. Overall, Villanova shot 21-of-65 (32.3 percent) on field goals and 5-of-26 (19.2) on 3-pointers. Armwood finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Surprisingly, SU (13-of-17) out shot the conference's best free-throw shooting team (17-of-27). The Orange finished 26-of-55 (47.3) from the floor and 4-of-15 from 3-point land. Junior forward Kris Joseph had just seven points but collected a team-best eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Brandon Triche finished with 11 points and seven boards.
The Syracuse basketball schedule features the Orange traveling to the nation's capital to play the the Georgetown Hoyas (21-6, 10-5) on Saturday afternoon. The Orange then concluded regular season play the following Saturday by hosting the DePaul Blue Demons (7-19, 1-13), March 5 (4 p.m.).