Orange hoping to even season series with Villanova

Villanova handed Syracuse its first loss of the season and snapped the Orange's 18 game winning streak. Monday, SU will travel to Philadelphia with an opportunity to return the favor.

After a thrilling overtime victory against Rutgers, the Syracuse Orange are heading to Philadelphia to face the Villanova Wildcats. SU will look to avenge its earlier season loss when Villanova defeated the Orange, 82-73, and snapped its 18 game win-streak.

Both teams are coming off eerily similar games against inferior opponents. The Wildcats survived in overtime at DePaul, despite being down for most of the game. The Orange also needed an extra period to take down Rutgers.

“Every game is important in this league,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said after his team’s overtime win.

A win versus Villanova (21-6, 9-5) would put the Orange in a tie for fourth place in the Big East. That would be a good recovery for a team that has gone through some rough patches this season, including a streak of games where SU went 2-6.

The Orange (22-6. 9-6) will have to continue its work inside the paint if they hope to return with a win. Against the Scarlet Knights, Rick Jackson was able to grab 12 rebounds and was aggressive on the offensive side of the ball as well, as he finished the game with 17 attempted free throws.

However, SU is still having problems defending teams beyond the arc. Rutgers made nine 3’s, many of which were wide open. That is something that can’t happen against ‘Nova.

In its previous matchup, the Wildcats penetrated the zone often and found shooters. Villanova finished the game with 11 made 3’s. All of its starting guards drained at least three from long range.

“Hopefully they won’t shoot as good as they did the first time,” freshman C.J. Fair said in a postgame interview.

Villanova’s best deep threat, senior guard Corey Stokes, has missed the last three games with turf toe and is currently listed as day-to-day. On the season, Stokes is shooting 42 percent from long range and is averaging 14.6 points per game. His absence could hurt the Wildcats’ chances at sweeping the Orange.

Whether or not Stokes can go, the Wildcats will have senior leader Corey Fisher. Fisher leads the team in scoring at more than 16 points per game, and averages five assists per game as well. The Orange will need to stop him from penetrating its 2-3 zone and getting out in transition, where he is at his best.

Like usual, this is a guard-driven Villanova team. However, it has gotten increased production this year from its starting bigs, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou. The two combine to score 20 points a game and almost 15 rebounds.

“It all comes down to our defense,” Boeheim said.

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