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Scoop leaves his last game in front of his hometown Philly crowd #1
In a normal season, you'd see the schedule and see Syracuse at Villanova and that would be a hot ticket.  It would be a matchup between two top-25 teams, two teams in the upper echelon of the Big East, jockeying for position within the conference.  But evidently 2011-2012 is not a normal season.  Instead, this Syracuse at Villanova matchup featured two programs going in opposite directions.  Those trends continued on Wednesday night in a game that was never really close, as Syracuse beat Villanova 79-66.
  • While Syracuse sent the same starting five onto the court for the 18th straight game this season, it wasn't the starters in the spotlight.  The stars of this game were bench players Dion Waiters, CJ Fair, and James Southerland.  Not only were they the three top scorers (at 20, 9, and 15 respectively) but they were the playmakers.
  • Not to say the starters were bad, because they weren't.  But they left a lot to be desired.  Take Kris Joseph, for example.  In 30 minutes, he was only 2-9 shooting (0-4 from three) and a perfect 4-4 on free throws for eight points.  That's just abysmal shooting, and this team needs more out of its senior leader, especially one playing the most minutes for the team.
  • In all, the starters were 12-28 (43%) shooting for 32 points, 18 rebounds, and nine assists.  The bench, meanwhile, was 16-35 (46%) shooting for 47 points, 22 rebounds, and six assists.
  • Dion Waiters had a usual great game, this time in front of his hometown Philadelphia crowd (has that been mentioned much?).  8-13 shooting (including 2-4 from three) for 20 points, five rebounds, five rebounds, and two assists.  Not to mention he rolled his ankle late in the first half and then still went out there in the second half and played like he didn't feel a thing.
  • Scoop Jardine didn't wow anyone with his play, but he gave his Philly phollowers a memorable moment when he caught an inbounds pass near halfcourt from CJ Fair with time expiring at the half and banked in a three pointer.
  • The banked three from Scoop was enough to get Dion to jump up out of his chair, limp-run over to Scoop, and do the most half-assed hip-bump I've ever seen.  Surely, that was all adrenaline.
  • The first half also saw Syracuse's patented offensive run, this time 20-2, to secure a lead they would not relinquish.  That's good though, because for the second straight game Syracuse basically traded baskets with its opponents in the second half.  In fact, Villanova outscored Syracuse in the second half 42-36.
  • Remember when we were concerned about Syracuse starting games slowly and then having to fight back and build a second half lead?  Yeah, that's over.
  • With a team this deep and a pretty clear rotation of players, it's not a matter of endurance or being gassed in the second half.  It's complacency.  There may be turmoil in the Big East, but there games won't get easier.  Syracuse gets beat in the game where they become so complacent that their opponent actually ties it up in the second half.  And, of course, takes a lead and keeps it at the end of the game.  That's how wins work.
  • Villanova is not a good basketball team.  Now at 8-9 on the season, 1-4 in the Big East, things look pretty grim.  The Wildcats will be in the unfamiliar territory of a Tuesday afternoon Big East Tournament game and, unless they rip off five consecutive wins in New York, they will be missing the NCAA Tournament.
  • Nova doesn't have any big-name players, any superstars, anything of note.  They're young and I'm sure Jay Wright will work his magic and get them back up to Nova standards soon, but with Syracuse leaving for the ACC (sometime...), we might never see it.
  • That said, Nova did have three players in double-digit scoring: Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, and JayVaughn Pinkston, all with 12.  The rest of the team was... meh.
  • Syracuse out-shot Villanova 44.4% to 32.8%.
  • Syracuse also held the rebounding margin 40-36.
  • The block party continues for the Orange, who had eight in this game.
  • Baye Keita's play off the bench hasn't been talked about here, but he had a pretty solid 19 minutes.  He knocked down two free throws, grabbed seven rebounds, and had two blocks.  I just wish I didn't have to hold my breath every time he touches the ball.  Nothing's wrapped anymore, so he has to be more confident in holding onto the ball.  That would help me feel better.
  • Jim Burr was on the call, along with Karl Hess and Michael Stephens.  A much better officiated game than the last two we've seen, but how about that crazy blocking call on Fab when he had the ball!  When asked about it after the game, Fab disagreed with the call.  And so do I.
And so, Syracuse leaves Philadelphia 18-0, 5-0 in the Big East, and returns Saturday to the Carrier Dome looking to match its best start in program history.  I didn't follow college basketball much while I was in high school (gasp!) but in 1999 I do remember seeing that headline about the Orangemen winning their 19th straight to open the season.  That was kinda cool.
Anyway, neither Brian nor I will be trekking up to the Dome on Saturday for the game against Providence.  My excuse?  My 49ers play the Saints in the NFC Divisional playoff game beginning at 4:30pm.  Due to my overwhelming need to watch both that game and the SU game, I'll be required to once again view from my command center in my living room.  So for those of you who will be in the Dome, be sure to cheer extra loudly for me.

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