The top-ranked Syracuse Orange put their undefeated record on the line against a familiar rival, as they have traveled to Philadelphia to challenge the Villanova Wildcats in a Big East Conference affair.
Syracuse is 17-0 for the second straight year, and the third time in coach Jim Boeheim's 35-year tenure at the school. The Orange knocked off visiting Marquette, 73-66, this past Saturday, running their conference mark to 4-0. Following this contest, SU returns home for a pair against Providence and Pittsburgh before heading back out on the road to tangle with Notre Dame and Cincinnati.
Villanova opened the season a solid 4-0, but coach Jay Wright's club has gone just 4-8 since. The Wildcats managed to snap a three-game losing streak by topping DePaul at home over the weekend, 87-71, thus giving the team its first Big East win of the campaign. The Wells Fargo Center in VU's home away from home, and this game wraps up a three-game stretch of games played in the Philadelphia market.
Syracuse owns a 36-31 advantage in the all-time series with Villanova, but the Wildcats have won eight of the last 12 meetings. The teams split a pair of matchups last season, with 'Nova winning at Syracuse, and the Orange winning in Philly.
Simply put, Syracuse has done just about everything right to this point in the season as its offensive production (80.6 ppg) far outweighs the efforts of its opponents (60.2 ppg), making the team one of the few in the country sporting a scoring margin in excess of 20 ppg. Kris Joseph (14.1 ppg), Dion Waiters (12.5 ppg) and Brandon Triche (10.6 ppg) are all averaging double digits in the scoring column, and the trio has combined for nearly half of the team's assists on the season as well, demonstrating their willingness to get others involved in the offense. SU is shooting 49.3 percent from the field, which includes a 37.3 percent showing from three-point range, and foes are doing the same at just 38.6 percent overall and 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. A smart, disciplined team, the Orange have committed just 192 turnovers (11.3 per game), while the opposition has coughed the ball up a whopping 318 times (18.7 per game). Joseph scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures, as Syracuse held off a pesky Marquette squad over the weekend. Triche finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while C.J. Fair added 13 points and eight rebounds, and Dion Waiters tallied 12 points and seven helpers.
Despite their lackluster record, the Wildcats have managed to put up 72.8 ppg and they also outrebound the opposition on average by 5.8 rpg. They are however, shooting just 43 percent from the field, and only 30.0 percent of their three-point tries find the bottom of the net. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in the form of Maalik Wayns (17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.8 apg), Mouphtaou Yarou (12.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Dominic Cheek (11.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg), but even they have been somewhat inconsistent. Defensively, Villanova is yielding 68.8 ppg, but that number climbs to 77.3 ppg against Big East competition alone, so coach Wright certainly has his work cut out for him as he conjures up ways to combat the quality opponents his team will face from here on out. The 'Cats used some dominant glass work (45-23) and double-digit scoring efforts from four guys to knock off visiting DePaul on Sunday. Wayns led the way with 21 points and eight boards, while Cheek tallied 20 points and six rebounds. Yarou chipped in with 14 points and seven caroms, while JayVaughn Pinkston came off the bench to register 13 points in just 18 minutes of action. VU shot a sizzling 56.0 percent from the field, while holding the Blue Demons to just 38.2 percent. A 27-11 edge in points from the foul line was huge, and the Wildcats won the game despite committing a horrid 28 turnovers.