The Orange’s Philly connection, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters, combined for 45 points, including four key foul shots in the waning moments, to lead Syracuse to the win over Villanova.
Villanova was the beneficiary of a gallant performance by senior Corey Stokes, who had missed the three previous games with a turf toe injury. Stokes, who was honored before the game with Villanova’s other senior players, scored 24 points, including 5 three-pointers, to match his season high in that category. Isaiah Armwood was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 12 points. Armwood also had 10 rebounds, as did Antonio Pena.
Villanova came into the game leading the Big East in free throw shooting percentage at 76.8%. But Monday night, the Wildcats were done in by their free throw shooting. The Wildcats missed 10 of 27 free throws, hitting just 17 0f 27 or 63%. In contrast, Syracuse converted 13 of 17 free throws or 76.5 %. Even Corey Stokes who was the leading free throw shooter in the Big East missed three free throws. Prior to last night’s game, Stokes had converted 72 of 77 attempts (93.5%). On Monday Stokes converted 5 of 8.
Villanova had an early 6-0 lead, but the Orange went on a 13-1 run to take the lead by a 13-7 margin. Despite several runs by Villanova, the Wildcats could not retake the lead. Nova missed 12 straight field goal attempts from 18:24 to 9:41 of the first half. However, the first-half ended with the Orange ahead by only two points 29-27 after a series of lane violation calls against Syracuse while Armwood was at the line. After the second lane violation, Syracuse was also called for a technical foul resulting in two additional free-throws (taken by Corey Stokes).
In the second half, Villanova fell behind several times by 9 points. Each time the Wildcats rallied and eventually cut Syracuse’s lead to one point, 57-56, with 5:28 left in the game (when Stokes was fouled shooting a three- pointer and then converted all 3 free throws. Jardine, however, scored 4 straight points to push Syracuse’s lead back to 61-56. Stokes hit a tree-pointer to again slice the Orange’s lead to one point 61-60.
Once again, one of the Cuse’s Philly guys, Rick Jackson, scored a bucket to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length 63-60. After a Brandon Triche basket for Syracuse made it 65-60, Stokes scored a basket to make it a one possession game with 48 seconds remaining. Waiters then missed the front end of a one and one free throw opportunity to give the Wildcats more hope. Isaiah Armwood converted two free throws to make it a 65-64 game with 21.7 seconds to go. However, Waiters and Jackson made 4 clutch free throws in the last seconds to preserve the Orange’s victory.
With the win Syracuse ran its record to 23-6,10-6 in the Big East. With the loss, the Wildcats fell to 21-7 overall, and 9-6 in the Big East. Villanova next plays Big East rival St. John’s on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm, February 26th, at the Wells Fargo Center. This will be the Wildcats final home game of the season.
Before the game Seniors Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes, and Russell Wooten were recognized and honored by the crowd of 18,899.
Also of note: Maurice Sutton who had played very well in Villanova’s victory over Syracuse earlier in the season did not dress for the game for violating team rules and Maalik Wayns was forced to leave the game with back spasms.
Several professional athletes watched the game from court-side including players from both the Eagles and Flyers.
You can view full video of both Villanova’s and Syracuse’s post-game press conferences below and can see an expanded photo gallery with 50+ additional photos by CLICKING HERE.