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Villanova - Syracuse Postgame Reactions OR We Are #1

The best crowd I've ever been a part of.
This was the biggest game between the best teams in the best conference in front of the biggest crowd on campus in NCAA history. Nothing much right? It was a huge affair on a very big Saturday night in prime time with College GameDay on hand. And on the biggest stage of the year, with the most at stake, Syracuse delivered in every facet of the game. Syracuse throttled #7/8 Villanova 95 to 77.
Syracuse wasted no time in scoring in this game. They jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Villanova started making outrageous three point baskets, something Villanova is quite familiar with. Villanova's good shooting also managed to net them a nine point lead in the middle of the first half. But they Syracuse started feeding their big men in the low post, and Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph came in off the bench, and Syracuse managed to score, and keep scoring especially in transition, and score again. Syracuse went into the half with a ten point lead after a long two point jumper from Jardine. And in the second half it was all Syracuse. Rick Jackson, Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins, and yes Wes Johnson as well. Six of the seven regular Syracuse players earned double scoring figures in this game. The defense was strong and the lead only got bigger for Syracuse in the second half. Additionally Villanova had two stretches in which they didn't score anything. And Syracuse not only took care of the ball, but they took care of the glass as well, getting two or three offensive rebounds per possession. Syracuse was simply magnificent in this game on both ends and earned a huge victory over Villanova by 18 points.
Rick Jackson, fresh off of a career 28 point performance at Providence, earns the high score for the Orange in this game with 19 points on 9-15 shooting. He also had eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks. He was outstanding under the rim and played well in making smart passes with the ball.
Right behind him was Arinze Onuaku with 17 points shooting 7-10 including two back to back three point plays and one as he was falling to the deck. Pretty impressive was hitting two free throws back to back in those three point plays as he was 3-5 on the day from the charity stripe. He was also good on the glass with nine rebounds, earning eight on the offensive end. He also had three blocks on the day. Both Syracuse big men were sensational on the day.
Bench scoring was huge in this game as both Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph had 16 points. Joseph also added nine rebounds and Scoop had seven himself. Scoop had an outstanding game including knocking down two of five three pointers as he was feeling the shooters touch, nailing the oh so important mid range j. Joseph added what he does best, driving to the basket. Both were excellent in this game, but Scoop really stepped up his game this time as a Philly boy, and had every part of his game on point.
And then there was the captain. Andy Rautins was not only shooting well, but he passed better than everyone else in the game. Oh yeah, and his defense was in prime form as per usual. No look passes, eight assists, three steals, and stifling defense were just a part of his game. He also had 12 points on 3-9 shooting. But while the shooting was obviously not excellent, everything else was on the money as he played one of his best games as well. He is the true MVP of this Syracuse team.
Wes Johnson, not to be forgotten, had a great game for the Orange too. He had another double-double with 14 points and ten rebounds. His shot was off as he was only 2-11 (the made baskets were from behind the arc), but he was 8-10 from the free throw line. He also added four assists and two steals. But his defense was solid and he hit free throws and that is what was needed in this game.
Syracuse led in ever single statistically category in this game. They shot the ball better (32-74 [43.2%] versus 28-67 [41.8%]), rebounded far better (48 versus 36), and assisted better as well (21 versus 15). Rebounding was huge in this game, including 22 offensive rebounds for Syracuse. But the biggest statistics were the fouls of both teams. Syracuse only committed 14 fouls as a function of their 2-3 zone, but Villanova committed 25 fouls, allowing Syracuse to earn a possible 33 points from the free throw line. Syracuse hit 24, which is a lot of points to just give a team.
And what about this defense. Syracuse had only been allowing 30.9% from beyond the arc, and Syracuse limited Villanova to only eight of 28 (28.6%), which is only good for Syracuse. 'Nova needed good perimeter shooting to beat Syracuse and they definitely did not have it on Saturday night. The zone was active, and save for a few open looks in the opening minutes of the game, Syracuse guarded Scottie Reynolds well and limited him to only 16 points and held 'Nova to only 77, which is about ten points less than they usually earn.
Syracuse's front court came through big time in this game. While Jay Wright has beaten Syracuse repeatedly in the past with his smaller, multiple guard line up, Syracuse's power players carried the day and prevented penetration to the basket and cleaned up on the glass on both ends of the floor.
Transition was also key in this game. Syracuse earned a lot of points in transition because of key defense at the top of the zone, as well as quick outlet passes off of long rebounds from a contested three point shot. Transition is one of the things Syracuse has always done well, and this year may be the best transition game Syracuse has ever had.
Syracuse clinched at least a share of the Big East regular season title, and with a win tonight will have it outright. They also clinched the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament, and in all likelihood a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They also earned the #1 ranking in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. This is the first regular season #1 ranking since the 1990 season. It is also only the sixth time that a team had been unranked and became #1 in a season. Syracuse has earned this honor by being 7-0 versus ranked opponents and 6-0 versus top ten teams.
Syracuse now goes on to play their last home game tonight against St. John's as the Carrier Dome bids farewell to Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku. They have played a full career at Syracuse and they should get a nice send off from the very appreciative fans. Also, they probably will assure their team that Syracuse finishes on top of the best basketball league in the country.
We're not done with Villanova and weekend converage yet. This game deserves more than just a postgame reaciton. We'll have more after our game with the Red Storm including photos from the weekend, impressions of College GameDay, outrageous stories, and the latest installment of Lacrosse Weekly, along with the obvious postgame stuff from St. John's. Keep on reading.

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