It finally happened.
No. 8 Villanova dropped their first decision on the road to the No. 2 Syracuse Orange 78-62 at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon in front of over 28,000 fans.
Villanova (11-1) came out strong, starting the game on a 25-7 run behind four James Bell long-range connections, but 'Cuse didn't go away. The Orange (12-0) swung a 40-14 stretch lasting from the middle of the first half to the early minutes of the second. Coach Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone kept Villanova an arm's length away during their run, holding the Wildcats to an 0-for-7 stretch at the end of the first half while 'Cuse tied and ran past Villanova.
The Wildcats three-point shooting was the main point of emphasis in the loss. Though the Wildcats offense (where nearly 46 percent of their field goal attempts come from deep) made their first 5-of-6 from the perimeter, they whiffed on their next nine, only connecting on one. Villanova also chucked 16 total three pointers in the first half which accounted for nearly eighty percent of their offense, they only took 25 first half shots.
Live by the three, die by the three.
But while Villanova launched 31 threes in the game, Syracuse used a more balanced attack. Trevor Cooney was unconscious from the three-point line, hitting five triples and finishing with 21 points while staying perfect from the free throw line on 6-for-6 shooting. Freshman guard Tyler Ennis added 20 points and two assists while C.J. Fair chipped in 17 of his own.
After grabbing the lead, Syracuse never lost it.
Villanova was paced by James Bell, who tied his career-high from the Wildcats matchup with Saint Joseph's in points, with 25 and six rebounds in 31 minutes and fouled out. Freshman Josh Hart added some energy off the bench, scoring 10 points. Against Syracuse, Villanova lost the rebounding battle, 33-28, and the Wildcats finished twenty points shy of their top-30 in the NCAA scoring average, only scoring 62 points.
Only two Wildcats scored in double figures, the lowest total of the season. The Orange outscored the Wildcats 22-15 in points off turnovers while Villanova coughed up 14 turnovers of their own. Syracuse shot 20-of-24 from the free throw line in the second half, shot 53.8 percent from deep and 46.7 percent from the field.
The Wildcats are now 1-1 this season when they are held below 70 points. Villanova returns to action on New Year's Eve on the road against Butler.