In the first ever Big East Tournament, both of the underdogs advanced to the championship game, as the 4th seeded Red Storm of St. John's stunned the top seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8-7 and the 3rd seeded Syracuse Orange crushed #2 Villanova by the score of 15-6. St. John's and Syracuse advance to the title game on Saturday afternoon at noon at Villanova Stadium. Notre Dame will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but Villanova's loss effectively ends their season with an 8-7 overall record.
Syracuse jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the 2nd quarter, but the Cats sliced the deficit to 6-4 at half. The second thirty minutes was all Syracuse though as they outscored Nova 10-2. Besides the score, the stats were pretty much even except the groundball differential, which proved to be the key factor in the game. The Orange scooped up 41 groundballs and the Cats only notched 22 for the contest. The extra possession time allowed the Orange offense to wear the Nova defense, which has been the weakness for Villanova all year. As Villanova head coach Mike Corrado put it,
I thought Syracuse came out in the second half and did a great job on the faceoffs. They really controlled the faceoffs. That was tough. Then you start pressing out and you give them high percentage scoring chances.
What once looked like a promising season came to a crashing halt last night, and it will be interesting to see Villanova responds next year since they lose a ton of talent to graduation this year.
For those interested, the NCAA Lacrosse Selection Show is this Sunday night, May 6th, at 9 PM on ESPNU.