In what turned out to be a tightly contested battle, the Villanova Wildcats came back to beat the Syracuse Orange by a final of 82-77 in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon. JayVaughn Pinkston led all scorers with 25 points, Darrun Hilliard had 23, and Josh Hart added 21. Pinkston also recorded a double-double. Five Orangemen finished in double-digit scoring, but it was their foul trouble that ultimately led to their demise.
Hilliard led off overtime with two free throws, and Michael Gbinije had a runner in the paint to tie it up again at 71. Hilliard was injured in a scrum for a loose ball, and limped off the court. Chris McCullough fouled out on the play, and Hart made one of two from the charity stripe. Two offensive rebounds and a foul later, Christmas had fouled out. Daniel Ochefu sank two freebies, and Gbinije hit a runner in the lane but missed the ensuing free throw.
Pinkston sunk a hoop from underneath, and then Villanova drew a charge on Tyler Roberson. Arch ran out the shot clock, but a turnover led to Trevor Cooney free throws. He made both, but Gbinije fouled out with 29 seconds remaining. A MASSIVE block by Pinkston gave Hart two more at the line, and Syracuse couldn’t come back as Nova did in regulation.
With 20 seconds left in the second half, Cooney sank two free throws to put the Orange up five, but Josh Hart nailed a deep ball with 10.8 seconds left and the ’Cats forced a turnover. Arch grabbed the loose ball and eventually found Pinkston for the game-tying layup underneath.
With just 3:55 to go, the Wildcats trailed 61-57, and Syracuse brought back their starting lineup for the first time in a while. Gbinije and McCullough had four fouls early in the half. A steal and follow-up dunk by Hilliard cut the lead in half, and consecutive Pinkston rebounds kept Syracuse from doing too much on offense.
Hart was called for goaltending, but Pinkston responded on the other end with a driving and-1 layup that gave Christmas his fourth foul. Christmas drew another goaltending call and made a free throw to push the lead to four. Pinkston traveled on the other end, and then Gbinije was fouled with 24.3 seconds remaining. He sank one of two, and Pinkston laid it in just four seconds later.
Arch drew two key charges early in the second half and played exemplary on-ball defense to spark a 10-0 Villanova run, and a first-half barrage of easy shots was no longer available for Syracuse as both team’s percentages started regressing to the mean.
A missed 3-pointer from Hart in the corner bounced out, but Hilliard was there to slam it back home and get the crowd going again. Christmas drew his third foul, but Kaleb Joseph responded with a mid-range jumper. Syracuse seemed to have an answer every time Villanova got close.
Just 16 seconds into the second half, McCullough and Gbinije drew their fourth and third fouls, respectively. But the Orange kept running and gunning on their way to a 14-point lead at 47-33, two minutes into the second half.
Hilliard would respond with a three-ball from the top of the key, and Arch drew a key charge that led to another deep dagger from Hilliard, trimming the deficit to just six, giving him 17 points with 16:11 to go in the game.
More solid defense from Arcidiacono led to a Hilliard steal, which turned into an Arch layup. Villanova trailed just 47-43 at that point.
Christmas left just four minutes into the game after drawing two quick fouls, but the ’Cuse starters spread the wealth in his absence. Gbinije had nine early points, and Roberson had chipped in five before the 10-minute mark.
After multiple poor shots, the Orange went on a 10-0 run capped by a Cooney 3-ball at the top of the arc on an under-handed pass from Joseph. Christmas added a long jumper upon returning to the game, and Gbinije hit from deep as well.
But Villanova used their defense to start a run of their own. A steal and dive out of bounds by Ochefu led to a layup, and a Pinkston block led to a basket on the other end, leading to louder cheers than I’ve heard since they stormed the court against Syracuse two years ago.
Cooney beat the shot clock for a 3-pointer on the run, and the lead hovered around 10 for the rest of the half.
At the half, Syracuse was on fire, shooting 63 percent, and 4-6 from deep. Gbinije and Christmas led the Orange with 11 points, and Gbinije also had six rebounds. Kaleb Joseph also recorded seven assists. Hart led the ’Cats with 11 points at the break, and Hilliard and Pinkston each had 9. Only four ’Cats scored in the opening frame, while only six Orangemen saw the court at all in the first 20 minutes.
Christmas, who grew up in the Philly area, came home to play for the last time as a college basketball player. He and Ochefu actually squared off a lot in high school, and he was recruited heavily by Wright. Wright still lets him work out in the 'Nova practice gym during breaks.
Note: Villanova NEVER led during regulation.
"I think it was a great effort. But obviously when you have control of the game at the end, you need to finish it out." -Boeheim
"I'm not worried about that, I'm worried about Colgate" -Boeheim, when asked about being ready for March.
"Last year we played St. John's and Villanova too, and I liked that a lot better" -Boeheim
"Syracuse-Villanova, it's never been anything other than what you just saw." -Wright
"We have upperclassmen who can carry our team." -Wright
"We're going through that concussion process right now. He said he was fine, and continues to say he's fine."
"Definitely. We just needed that. A lot of reasons. We didn't come into the game with the focus that we should have. And that happens from time to time. Thats what we talked about at halftime." -On facing a big test and a close game
"When Syracuse comes in here, this place is rockin'. It makes it an incredible atmosphere." -Wright