SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Villanova couldn’t find the same type of magic Saturday that it had carried into its recent trips to the Carrier Dome. Then again, the Syracuse zone defense wouldn’t allow it to happen.
The Wildcats shot poorly throughout the game and the seventh-ranked Orange blew the game open with a 17-4 second-half run to defeat Villanova, 72-61, in a Big East game before a crowd of 27,586 and ended the visitors’ seven-game winning streak.
The Wildcats (11-5, 2-1 Big East) had won on three of its last four visits to the Carrier Dome but managed to shoot just 31.5 percent Saturday and committed 16 turnovers.
The Orange (16-1, 4-0), who won their sixth in a row, played without James Southerland, their second-leading scorer, who sat out for what a school spokesman referred to as an eligibility issue.
But Syracuse received fine performances from three freshmen. Jerami Grant scored a career-high 13 points, DaJuan Coleman added six and Trevor Cooney hit a pair of three-point shots in the Orange’s decisive run.
JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova with 12 points and Mouphtaou Yarou added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Syracuse’s C.J. Fair led all scorers with 22.
Syracuse held a narrow 44-43 lead before taking control with a 17-4 run over a 5 ½-minute stretch of the second half, with 12 of their points coming off Villanova turnovers.
Michael Carter-Williams, who had seven assists, fired up the crowd with an alley-oop that Philadelphia’s Rakeem Christmas threw down for a dunk, and Cooney wrapped up the spurt with back-to-back three-pointers.
Cooney’s second three-ball gave Syracuse a 61-47 lead with 5:48 to play. The Wildcats got as close as six, 64-58, with 2:04 remaining when James Bell knocked down a three-ball, but couldn’t sustain the comeback. The Orange shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the second half.
Villanova held a 29-27 lead at the half and scored the first basket of the second before the Orange ran off seven straight points, five of them by Fair, to take a 34-31 lead. The Wildcats tied it on their next trip down when Ryan Arcidiacono drained a three-pointer, but that would be the last time they did not trail.
The Orange scored the next six points, all by Fair. The Wildcats drew to within one on Achraf Yacoubou’s three-point basket with 11:14 remaining, but Syracuse took control after that.
Both teams shot poorly in a first half that ended with the Wildcats holding a 29-27 lead. Yarou led the Wildcats with nine points, including a jumper in the lane on Nova’s final possession that provided the two-point margin.
The Wildcats connected on 31.0 percent of their field-goal attempts as compared to 30.3 percent for the Orange. Yarou led the Cats with nine points and Grant paced the Cuse with seven.
Villanova took its largest lead, 14-9, on a 6-0 run that ended with Yarou’s followup basket with 8 minutes to play. The Orange answered right away with a 6-0 run of their own, with Grant’s slam-dunk follow putting Syracuse in front 15-14 at the 6:04 mark.
Contact Joe Juliano at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq