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Syracuse hung with No. 6 Villanova for the entire first half, leading by as many as five points during the first frame, and continued to stick with the Wildcats for a chunk of the second half too. But eventually, Villanova’s plethora of 3-pointers started to fall, and the Wildcats ran away with Tuesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden.
The Wildcats fired a program-record 50 3-pointers. They were cold in the first half but stopped swinging the ball around the arc and instead connected penetrating interior passes. Then they moved the ball back outside the arc and hit wide-open 3s. Collin Gillespie gave Villanova a 46-45 lead with a 3-pointer, and then Villanova hit back-to-back trifectas moments later as it finished 13-of-50 from deep.
Here are some observations from Syracuse’s (5-4, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) 14-point loss to No. 6 Villanova (7-2, 0-0 Big East) in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday:
Jimmy Boeheim’s presence inside
For the second game in a row, Buddy Boeheim was quiet in the first half, posting just four points in 19 minutes. Buddy finished 3-of-15 for six points and 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. He was wide-open for a 3-pointer in the second half of a 1-point game and couldn’t connect even that. But his older brother, Jimmy, took over for Syracuse.
Jimmy hit an early 3-pointer in transition but then got to work inside. He missed a layup in the right lane on one of his first drives when the ball bounced around the rim but simply wouldn’t fall. Then he got two points into the paint, backed his defender into the left block and converted a hook-shot and laid in the final bucket of the half to give SU a 3-point halftime lead.
Immediately out of halftime, he drove into the paint, spun around his defender and hooked in a smooth shot. Jimmy continued in that rhythm, driving both to his right and his left, and finishing off the glass on both sides. He finished with a team-leading 21 points on 10-of-19 from the field.
Villanova from 3
The Wildcats entered Tuesday night’s matchup in Madison Square Garden ranked seventh in the nation in 3-point percentage. Tuesday against Syracuse, they started by nailing their first 3-of-4 3-pointers.
Villanova has prided itself on strong 3-point shooters — like Gillespie and Brandon Slater, who entered the game shooting 46.9% from beyond the arc. Justin Moore was shooting 40% from deep as well.
Against the zone, Villanova found space to continue heaving 3-pointers but went cold after its hot start — 3-of-4 turned into 5-of-28 by halftime. Head coach Jay Wright said Villanova just needed to convert more of its looks on ESPN’s halftime broadcast.
With over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Villanova had already taken a program-record 39 3-pointers. But down the stretch, Villanova heated up and secured a double-digit win.
Rebounding struggles return
Syracuse was dominated on the boards, 57-36 overall. Villanova had 27 offensive boards and turned it into 25 second-chance points.
With under five minutes remaining, Villanova hoisted a 3-pointer that wouldn’t fall but managed to grab an offensive rebound in the crowd of SU defenders. On another play, Gillespie drained a 3-pointer on a second-chance opportunity because of Villanova’s offensive rebound. As the game wore on, the No. 6 Wildcats managed more and more contested boards. It seemed that at times, the Orange only snagged the rebounds that fell right into their hands.
Head coach Jim Boeheim said the rebounding was improved in Syracuse’s road win over Florida State but emphasized that there was still room for further improvement. And in Syracuse’s loss, the rebounding struggles that plagued SU all of last year returned. The Orange watched their minor lead dissipate and couldn’t grab the boards needed to prevent Villanova from building a lead of its own.
Cole Swider against his former team
Cole Swider pointed three fingers in the air after draining Syracuse’s first points of the night against his former team, a group where he saw limited minutes despite being the Wildcats’ sixth-best scorer last year. The Orange’s deep shooter still couldn’t find his stroke during the first half — something he’s still searching for this season — missing his next two consecutive attempts from deep.
He hoisted a questionable jumper over his defender from just outside the paint during the first half and continued to fire 3s, though they weren’t falling. But it was on boards where he made his biggest impact early on. Swider had seven defensive rebounds in the first half and an offensive board, leading all players.
He positioned himself well to get to loose balls or ones that Jesse Edwards couldn’t secure too. But then Swider went quiet and finished with just five points despite 39 minutes.
The 1-1-3 zone continues
Syracuse recently adapted its iconic 2-3 zone into a 1-1-3 look, one that is built to take away the high-post. Buddy said it forced Florida State into 30 3-point attempts, a distance that the Seminoles struggled from.
Tuesday against No. 6 Villanova, Syracuse did it once again. It stuck with its adapted 1-1-3 for the majority of the first half. At times, it morphed back into a 2-3 or looked more like a 1-3-1, but it helped contest Villanova’s plethora of 3-point attempts. At other times, it looked even more jumbled or disorganized.
But in the first half, it worked. Villanova couldn’t connect on its looks (18% from beyond the arc), and the majority of them were contested. The Wildcats entered the game averaging 8.5 turnovers a game and had eight in the first half.
Then Villanova began to dissect the zone by connecting interior passes, dribbling inside and dunking down low. The Wildcats threaded the ball inside and then moved it outside for a 3-pointer by Caleb Daniels. Then, Daniels hit another. The zone limited Villanova’s 3s in the first half but couldn’t do so in the second half when Villanova started to connect on more open looks.
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