For the second time this week, the Villanova Wildcats will take on a top-5 opponent, as they welcome the third- ranked Syracuse Orange to the City of Brotherly Love for a pivotal Big East Conference clash.
Syracuse is having another sensational season, the team suffering just one loss in its first 19 games, that setback ironically enough coming against another Philadelphia-area school in Temple (83-79), at New York's famed Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22. The Orange have won eight straight since, the last six of which have all been in Big East play. SU slipped past visiting Cincinnati on Monday, 57-55. and this bout comes two weeks to the day after the Orange topped these same Wildcats at the Carrier Dome, 72-61.
As a result, Syracuse leads the all-time series with Villanova by a 38-31 margin. The Orange have won their last two times playing at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, and are 7-4 there all-time.
Villanova came into Tuesday's showdown with No. 5 Louisville dragging a three- game losing streak with it, but the Wildcats showed some moxy in upsetting the Cardinals, 73-64. It was VU's first win over a ranked opponent in nearly two years, and improved the team's record against top-5 foes at the Well Fargo Center to 3-1. The win also snapped a six-game losing streak against Big East rivals at the venue.
Michael Carter-Williams scored 16 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds to lead Syracuse to its narrow win over Cincinnati earlier this week. C.J. Fair and Brandon Triche added 13 points apiece, the former also pulling down six boards for the Orange, who wound up losing the rebounding battle (38-28). The team was incredibly protective of the ball, turning it over only six times on the night. Collectively, SU shot 46 percent from the field, hitting a third of its 3-point tries along the way, while the Bearcats were just 32.7 percent accurate overall while knocking down 10-of-32 3-point attempts. Triche (14.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg), Fair (13.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Carter-Williams (12.3 ppg, national-best 9.2 apg) continue to pace the team in scoring, with the latter two also serving as its leading rebounder and primary playmaker, respectively. Senior James Southerland (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) had also been a highly-productive member of the team, but he is suspended indefinitely due to academic issues. With a near-perfect record, it's not surprising to see the Orange dominant in just about all areas, as the team owns significant margins in scoring (+19.2), rebounding (+7.8) and turnovers (+4.0).
Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points in leading five Wildcats in double figures, and Villanova used a 22-12 edge in points from the foul line to upend the fifth-ranked Cardinals on Tuesday night. Mouphtaou Yarou, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston each tallied 11 points, and James Bell chipped in 10 for a VU squad that shot 45.8 percent from the field, draining 7-of-15 3-point attempts along the way. By comparison, Louisville was just 39.7 percent efficient from the floor, and committed 17 turnovers. The Wildcats were guilty of 19 miscues. Pinkston (13.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Arcidiacono (11.8 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Hilliard (10.0 ppg, 31 steals) are all averaging double figures in the scoring column this season, helping the team as a whole produce 69.4 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .401 overall, .343 from beyond the arc, and .710 from the charity stripe. The 'Cats are on the positive side in both scoring (+2.9) and rebounding (+3.4) margins, but are in the red with regard to turnover differential (-1.3).