Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Villanova erased a five-point deficit over the final 17 seconds of regulation, and the seventh-ranked Wildcats eventually prevailed, 82-77, in overtime over Syracuse at Wells Fargo Center.
In the closing moments, Josh Hart hit a 3-pointer to bring Villanova (11-0) within 69-67, and after stealing the ensuing inbounds pass, Jayvaughn Pinkston's layup tied the game with four seconds left.
Pinkston led all scorers with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Darrun Hilliard added 23 points. Hart's 21-point game was a career high.
Once leading by as many as 15 points, the Orange (6-4) failed to put the hosts away. Rakeem Christmas and Michael Gbinije each paced Syracuse with 18 points before both fouling out in overtime.
Kaleb Joseph chipped in 10 points with 10 assists for Syracuse.
The Orange led by as much as 14 in the second half before a 10-0 Wildcats run brought them within four. Hilliard scored the first eight points to kick-start the spurt.
Villanova never did quite take the lead in regulation though. Pinkston's three-point play cut its deficit to 63-62 with 1:14 left, but Christmas responded on the other end with a three-point play of his own.
With 17 seconds left, Trevor Cooney's pair of free throws put the Orange up five and appeared to put the game away, but that's when Villanova's comeback began with Hart's 3-pointer.
"You would love to come in and beat a team by 15 or 20 points every game but that isn't always possible," said Hart. "We need these types of games to get us prepared for conference games and prepared for April."
The Orange were unable to successfully inbound the ball on the ensuing possession, and Villanova took advantage of the scramble. After Pinkston stole the ball in the corner, he cut to the basket and hit the tying layup with a pass from Ryan Arcidiacono and just four seconds on the clock.
A wild 3-pointer from Gbinije was off the mark, and the game headed to overtime.
Villanova took its first lead of the game a minute into the extra period on a pair of Hilliard free throws, and the Wildcats never trailed. Pinkston's layup in traffic with 1:23 left was their only field goal of overtime, but they went 11-of-12 from the charity stripe to secure the win.
"It was a great effort," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "Obviously, when you have control of the game at the end, you need to finish the game. And we just didn't."
The Wildcats made 26-of-32 free throws in the game, and the Orange managed just 13 on 18 attempts.
Villanova's typically stingy defense was no problem for Syracuse in the first half. The Orange shot 63 percent from the floor including 4-of-6 from long distance.
Whenever the Wildcats inched closer, Syracuse responded with a run. After Villanova pulled within three halfway through the period, the Orange rattled off 10 straight points including a pair of 3s from Gbinije and Cooney.
With two minutes to go before the break, a triple from Cooney and jumper from Tyler Roberson gave Syracuse its largest lead of the half at 15. Hilliard's jumper at the buzzer cut that lead to 43-31 at the half.
Villanova avoided suffering its first defeat of the season to Syracuse for the second straight year ... Syracuse still leads the all-time series 38-34 ... The Wildcats improved to 2-0 in games played at Wells Fargo Center with three remaining ... Villanova had not trailed at halftime all season, and the 15 points was its largest deficit of the season... The Wildcats are 10-0 when scoring 70 or more points ... Villanova hosts NJIT on Tuesday while Syracuse's next game is Monday against Colgate.