Villanova rolls over Syracuse

March 12, 2008 9:16:22 PM PDT
Jay Wright has another uncomfortable night ahead of him, looking forward to Villanova's second-round game in the Big East tournament. Jim Boeheim can rest a little bit easier, but for all the wrong reasons.

Scottie Reynolds scored 22 points and Villanova rode some hot shooting in the second half to knock off Syracuse 82-63 Wednesday, and dramatically help its cause in what amounted to an NCAA tournament elimination game.

The teams split their regular-season meetings and each came into the conference tournament needing a couple of wins to breath easier on Selection Sunday.

By the time Reynolds curled in consecutive 3-pointers with less than 7 minutes left to extend the lead to double figures, Wright and the Wildcats could exhale ever so slightly.

"I hope it's enough, but I know I have no say in it," Wright said. "We get to play another day. That's all we're interested in, getting to play another day."

Eighth-seeded Villanova advanced to play the top seed, No. 9 Georgetown, in a rematch of a second-round game won last year by the Hoyas. A victory against a team they've never beaten in four conference tournament games would almost surely be enough for the Wildcats.

"We're just going to go out and play the game," Villanova freshman Corey Stokes said. "Me and my teammates have been really looking forward to this game."

Unlike last season, when Syracuse was left out of the NCAA tournament despite winning 22 games, Boeheim glumly acknowledged there won't be much Sunday drama this time around.

"After last year, we probably had to win two or three games," he said. "We had to keep winning and I don't think one win would have been enough. ... In my mind and their mind, if they're not in the NCAA tournament it's not a good year."

Stokes hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points for Villanova, which made 11 3-pointers against Syracuse, including a blistering 8 of 10 in the second half. The Wildcats improved to 14-1 this season when hitting at least eight 3-pointers in a game.

"In the second half, we just didn't do a good job of reacting to where Reynolds and Stokes were," Boeheim said. "The open looks from the 3-point line, I thought, were the difference today."

Dwayne Anderson added 14 points, Dante Cunningham 13 and Shane Clark 11 for Villanova, which gave up several inches at most positions but still managed to outrebound Syracuse 40-27 and grab 14 offensive rebounds.

Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn, the nation's second-highest scoring freshman duo, did their part for Syracuse. Green finished with 17 points and Flynn had 16, but aside from 13 points from Paul Harris, they got little help.

The Orange (19-13) led throughout the first half and early in the second, when their inability to grab a rebound or hold onto the ball finally did them in.

Stokes hit a deep 3-pointer with 12:26 left to make it 44-41 - giving Villanova a 19-0 advantage in points off the bench to that point - and Syracuse went more than 4 minutes without a basket while the Wildcats pulled away.

Anderson's 3-pointer with 8:35 left seemed to demoralize Syracuse, and a pair of 3s by Reynolds on Villanova's next two possessions made it 61-47 and left Boeheim standing stone still, arms crossed in frustration.

The Wildcats continued to pour it on, the lead increasing to 20 when Arinze Onuaku fouled out with 4:32 left and Cunningham made good on a pair of free throws.

Early on, Syracuse and Villanova looked more like a couple of teams that didn't belong in the Big East tournament, much less the NCAA tournament. The two teams went scoreless for nearly 4 minutes.

Eventually Greene got hot, knocking down three straight 3-pointers as the Orange raced to an 11-point lead that they nursed for most of the first half.

Their sloppy ballhandling finally caught up to them in the closing minutes.

Syracuse was clinging to a 28-19 lead with 1:10 left when Stokes hit a 3-pointer and Clark got ahead of the defense off a turnover - the Orange's 12th of the half - for a transition dunk. Moments later, Anderson hit a 3 from the corner as the clock expired to make it 28-27 at the break.

"I thought that was huge," Wright said of the late first-half burst. "I thought that was huge because we couldn't score, we were turning the ball over. ... We looked like we wanted it too bad."