VILLA-NO-FUN: Inconsistency catches up to Orange as Syracuse falls to unranked Villanova in OT
Villanova 75, No. 3 Syracuse 71
PHILADELPHIA – The seconds ticked off the clock, each one moving Syracuse closer to a fate it’s flirted with so many times this season. This time, there were not any clutch shots, at least from the Orange’s side. This time, there was no defensive stand.
There were five extra minutes of basketball, but the Orange only displayed the inconsistency it demonstrated through an entire game.
In a dramatic back-and-forth battle, the missed shots, the missed free throws, the turnovers and the failure to close out shooters caught up to No. 3 Syracuse. Villanova upset the Orange 75-71 in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, with the type of grind-it-out effort that defined Syracuse (18-2, 6-1 Big East) to this point. It was the Wildcats’ (13-7, 4-3) second-straight upset over a top-five team after they beat No. 5 Louisville on Tuesday, and for the second time in one week, Wildcats fans stormed the floor after a big win.
The Orange tried to pull out another close win after edging out Louisville and Cincinnati in the past week. This time it couldn’t.
“I thought it was an unbelievable effort. Both teams gave a tremendous, tremendous effort,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought that we couldn’t get going offensively for a long time. We hung in there and battled.”
Through regulation, Syracuse was hot and cold. The Orange was only 19-of-55 from the field (34.5 percent), and just 1-of-5 from the arc in the first half. At the 7:38 mark of the first half, Villanova had a 12-point lead. With an 8-0 run toward the end of the first half and Jerami Grant’s assertiveness at the start of the second, Syracuse wrestled back the lead and clung to it for the rest of regulation.
“It’s tough. They got off to a good lead, we fought back,” forward C.J. Fair said. “At one point, we had control of the game.”
With one minute left, the Orange held a 61-58 lead, with the fans in the Wells Fargo Center growing louder for an intense final few possessions.
Wildcats head coach Jay Wright called a timeout with 14 seconds left. All the Orange needed was to guard the 3-point line for 14 seconds.
And it did – at first. With eight seconds left, James Bell shot a contested 3 that clanged off the rim.
Villanova center Mouphtaou Yarou brought down the rebound, though, and kicked the ball out to Ryan Arcidiacano in the left corner.
His attempt swished through the nets, knotting the game at 61 with 2.2 seconds to play.
Up three late, SU decided to play straight-up defense rather than foul before Villanova could attempt a 3-pointer. Had the Orange grabbed a defensive rebound, the plan would have worked.
“I thought we defended it, we didn’t get the rebound,” Boeheim said. “It’s always the danger to be able to throw that out there to get that open look. That’s what they got and they made it. To their credit.”
The end of regulation put Syracuse in a tough situation going into overtime. Grant fouled out with 5:22 left, and center Baye Moussa Keita picked up his fifth about a minute later.
With a small lineup and no depth, Boeheim said there was too much time left to foul. He did not trust his team would get the rebound because of the size disadvantage. If Villanova snagged the board off a missed free through, it would have had time for another shot.
In overtime, Villanova seized control. Bell hit two 3-pointers, the second pushing Villanova’s lead to 69-65 with 1:55 left. Trevor Cooney and Michael Carter-Williams missed both 3s they attempted.
“We just kept attacking, trying to get to the line. It was mostly on the defensive end. We needed to get out on the shooters at the end,” Carter-Williams said. “They were getting to the line a lot. That didn’t help us either.”
Syracuse missed three critical free throws in overtime, two of which could’ve tied the game. In the final 13 seconds of overtime, the Wildcats hit three of their four free throws. With five seconds left, they had a six-point lead.
Villanova’s student sections, located on both sides of the court, began pushing their way to the edge of the court, toppling chairs and knocking over tables.
When the final second melted off the clock, mayhem ensued.
A slow start and ample missed opportunities caught up to the Orange.
“I never think the game’s over,” Fair said. “I knew we had a shot at coming back and winning this game, but it just didn’t go our way.”
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