Long range shooting and dominance on the glass were the ingredients in a Villanova win over Syracuse at MSG 67-53. All was well in the first half, as SU harassed the Wildcats into poor shooting and the Orange held a 29-26 lead at the break. But Nova went white hot in the second half, shooting 7-for-15 from deep and extending its lead with a 12-2 run. It eventually broke the Orange, and SU looked like an inferior foe against a top 10 team in the country.
There are already worries this will be more of the same on the Hill. The Orange have had a tendency to waltz through mediocre regular seasons, collect a few important wins in the ACC Tournament, and then cross their fingers for Selection Sunday. A victory over the Wildcats would have been an early notch in the resume, and the proof that SU can hang with the very best.
Instead it was another tease, as the formula for Orange success in the first half evaporated like an available cab outside the Garden. The Cats bullies SU on the boards 57-36, and that should be an eye-opener for a team that will face formidable front courts in most of its ACC play. The loss drops SU to 5-4, an unsightly record for not even being midway through December.
It was also a reminder of how limited this offense is when Buddy Boeheim isn’t hitting. He shot just 3-for-15, missing all five of his three-balls. He had minimal impact on the game with just 6 points. Defeating the #6 team in the country when your most dangerous offensive weapons scores 6 points is nearly impossible.
The bright side is the Orange are almost done with a 6-game road swing after the matchup with Georgetown this weekend. But the early returns are not great. While Nova was held down in the first half, it was only a matter of time before the threes started hitting for one of the best shooting teams in the country. Sandwiched between this night and the Colgate disaster, SU has also lost games to VCU and Auburn.
In another interesting twist, the ACC is having a down non-league season. Only #3 Duke is ranked among the entire conference, so perhaps it won’t be as punishing as usual. But the Orange come away from its highly-anticipated game with a former Big East rival by realizing once again it is not at that level right now.