It’s been a week since Nova lost its mojo in Morgantown. They struggled again on Thursday before pulling away midway through the second half against a Rutgers team that did not know it was supposed to lose. On Sunday, the #12 AP Cats look to regain their form at the Carrier Dome in a rematch against the #24 AP Syracuse Orange. Game coverage begins at 1PM on CBS.
In their first game, held on February 7 at the Wachovia Center, Dante Cunningham had the best game of his Big East Career, matching a career high with 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds to help Villanova, then # 17 AP, roll to its fifth straight win, 102-85 over then # 20 Syracuse. Shane Clark had 14 pts and 10 rebounds, Corey Stokes had 16 pts and 8 rebounds, Corey Fisher had 14 pts and 6 assists and Scotty Reynolds had 10 pts and 3 assists. Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf led Syracuse with 22 and 21 points, respectively, but combined for 11 of Syracuse’s 16 turnovers. Fun Facts: Villanova has won 4 of 5 against Syracuse. After starting at 16-1, Syracuse has lost 6 of its last 9.
Syracuse Stats: Scoring Leaders: Flynn (17.5), Devendorf (15.6), Harris (12.6), Onuaku (11.0), Rautins (10.1). Rebounding: Harris (8.0) and Onuaku (7.7). Assists: Flynn (6.1).
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not (Last 3 Games Scoring vs. Season Averages): Syracuse: Flynn (+3.5 ppg), Devendorf (+3.1 ppg), Harris (-3.3 ppg), Onuaku (-3.3 ppg) Nova: Fisher (+6.3), Clark (+4.6), Reynolds (+4.5), Stokes (+2.6), Cunningham (-3.7)
Key Matchup: Scottie Reynolds vs. Jonny Flynn: Syracuse is led by Sophomore Jonny Flynn, who was one of the top recruits in the country two years ago. He is a tough kid who plays with intensity and does what it takes to win. He is great ball handler and lightening quick who can both dish and score. He averages 6.1 assists and 17.5 ppg, (21.0 over his last three games) hitting 46% of his shots from the field. Reynolds is averaging 3.8 assists and 15.5 ppg. for the Cats (20.0 ppg over his last three games), and hits 40% from the field. He rebounded with 21 points against Rutgers after a sub-par12 point effort in Nova’s loss to West Virginia.
X-Factors: Nova’s Bench, Carrier Dome, Dante Slump, Grudges
Nova Bench: Villanova has some of the best guards in the Big East, and often gets a lift when Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher enter a few minutes into the game. Fisher and Stokes have been on a roll. Both are capable of making big plays. Antonio Pena lost his starting role to Shane Clark, but contributes 6.6 ppg and 5.2 rebounds. Syracuse has a short bench, with Rautins and Ongenaet getting most of the time. Rautins is fifth in team scoring with 10.7
Carrier Dome: The Syracuse fans make a lot of noise and love their team making it a very intimidating place to play. Almost 34,000 fans attended the last regular season game played by beloved Orange guard Gerry McNamara against Villanova in March 2006. Syracuse is 14-2 in the Carrier Dome this year. Its two losses were against Cleveland State and Louisville. Their most significant home wins were against Georgetown, West Virginia and Notre Dame.
Dante Cunningham: Dante was the star of the first game against Syracuse, but has been in a slump of late, scoring 11.3 ppg and struggling with foul trouble. This would be a good time for Dante to find his groove.
Jonny’s Got His Grudge: Jonny Flynn openly carries a grudge against Villanova after Nova knocked Syracuse out of NCAA tournament consideration last season.