This was a game which undoubtedly would decide the tournament fate of both Big East teams. Villanova and Syracuse were sitting either squarely on the bubble or on the outside with their faces pressed firmly against the bubble looking in. Somebody wouldn’t be dancing next week.
Villanova started the game tentative and off from behind the arc and managed to remain only one down going into halftime. In the second half, on the other hand, a completely different team showed up. I don’t know what Jay Wright told the Wildcats at half time (probably shoot the damn ball and stop hesitating), but they clearly got the message. Villanova came out in the second half and blasted Syracuse to the tune of 55-35. I guess Pete and I picked the wrong half to watch during our lunch break. That explosive 2nd half of basketball gave Nova an 82-63 win and ensured that they are still in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid.
Undersized Villanova dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Orangeman 34-20. And in the second half Nova finally found their shooting touch, ending the game connecting on 48% of their shots and 52.4% from three. Scottie Reynolds, as usual, lead the team in scoring with 22 and also dished out 6 assists. But the real story was the Wildcat bench, led by Cory Stokes (18 points) and Shane Clark (11 points) outscoring the entire ‘Cuse bench 29-8.
Great performance by Villanova in a must-win game. But there is still a lot of work to be done. Next up is the overrated Georgetown Hoyas, but they have been playing much better basketball lately.
With the recent upsets by San Diego over Gonzaga and Middle Tennessee State over South Alabama in the mid-majors, there are fewer at-large bids available meaning Villanova, as well as Saint Joseph’s and Temple, will need to make an even stronger case for themselves in their respective conference tournaments. Nova took the first step today beating up on Syracuse, but I don’t think that alone is enough. One more win, a signature win against the Hoyas, will likely move the Wildcats from outside the bubble into the field of 65. Let’s just hope the refs don’t @#$% Villanova this time around.
LET’S GO BIG 5