AROUND THE CITY
One would not associate the word patience and Villanova under Jay Wright. The Wildcats have won so often by creating chaos. But the coach knew that was not going to work at the crazed Carrier Dome in front of 33,736 fans.
Villanova would have to limit possessions and not take quick shots. That way, Syracuse's devastating fastbreak would be stuck in neutral.
Villanova's guards walked the ball up the court and held it out away from the zone for the first 20 seconds of most possessions. Then they attacked through ball and player movement. And, most importantly, they made long shots during the game and foul shots at the end of what would become an 83-72 win.
Villanova (17-2, 5-1 Big East) got a working margin by making threes. The Wildcats shot 8-for-13 from the arc in the first half. Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher each scored 16 points and have been making long shots for some time. The difference-maker was Maalik Wayns. After shooting 17-for-54 from the arc as a freshman, he was just 12-for-60 (20 percent) from long range this season - until he went 3-for-4 in the first half. That opened up the zone and paved the way for the 'Cats to shoot 50 percent for the game.
Syracuse (18-2, 5-2) finally got Villanova to play fast in the final minutes when it went to a press. A 69-56 lead became 69-65 after three turnovers and some quick missed shots.
Villanova went to another of its strengths - the foul line. The Wildcats made 12 straight down the stretch and 22 of 24 for the game.
Philly's Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters could not make any shots (3-for-20) for Syracuse. Rick Jackson had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the home team.
Think about this. Penn had lost 16 consecutive City Series games. Saint Joseph's lost 20 games last season and had lost 13 of 18 games this season. So why were there 8,051 fans at the Palestra? Because it was cold, it was January and it was the Palestra on a Saturday night. There are some things this city cannot do without. And that is one of them.
The fans were treated to a spirited game that was close until the final minutes. In the end, Penn's veterans were better than St. Joe's youngsters. And the Quakers streak was over with a 73-61 win.
Penn (6-8, 1-3 Big 5) got a career-best 27 points from Tyler Bernardini and played like a team determined to end that Big 5 streak and do some damage in the Ivy League.
The Quakers were 8-for-20 from the arc (40 percent) and 15-for-15 from the foul line. It is that kind of offensive precision that will give them a chance in the Ivy. The Hawks (5-14, 0-2) are better than they were a month ago, but they are just too inconsistent. They shot 5-for-20 from the arc and 12-for-20 from the foul line. Their normally solid guards, Tay Jones and Langston Galloway, shot just 2-for-15 between them.
NO DEFENSE, NO WIN
Temple, under Fran Dunphy, does not give up 88 points. So, how did the Owls lose at Xavier, 88-77?
It is probably not this simple, but the fact that Lavoy Allen was in foul trouble the entire game and played just 13 minutes had to be a critical factor. Allen did not score, but the Owls scored enough to win. Allen, however, is the key to their defense. And when he is not on the floor, it is an open invitation to attack the rim.
Temple (13-5, 3-2 Atlantic 10) gave up 78 points the previous Saturday in a loss at Duquesne. But, given the pace the Dukes play, that is not a shock.
Scootie Randall (career-best 28 points) was terrific on offense for the Owls. So was Khalif Wyatt (19 points). Those two combined to shot 17-for-27. The rest of the team shot 11-for-38. Temple overcame big deficits twice, but could not sustain it to the finish line.
Xavier (13-5, 5-0) has now won a record 35 straight league games at Cintas Center. X got 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Tu Holloway, a serious league player of the year candidate. Xavier shot 31-for-59 (52.5 percent) and 8-for-13 from the arc.
PLAYED DEFENSE, WON GAME
La Salle can score with anybody. And anybody can score on the Explorers. Which generally is not a way to have a successful season.
Giving up 75 points does not sound like great defense until one looks inside the numbers. La Salle (9-11, 1-4 A-10) won at Rhode Island, 76-75, because Aaric Murray (20 points) had a three-point play with 30 seconds to play and then defended two shots at the finish by URI (12-7. 3-2). The Rams were 23-for-63 (36.5 percent) from the field. And those are numbers that La Salle has not been familiar with in recent weeks.
OVER EARLY AT THE DAC
Drexel scored 17 of the game's first 20 points and never looked back in its 72-58 win over Northeastern (4-15, 0-8 Colonial). The Dragons (12-6, 4-4) got 17 each from Samme Givens and Chris Fouch, did what they usually do on the glass (plus-15) and won comfortably.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Morehead rebounding machine Kenneth Faried had six points, seven turnovers and 21 rebounds in his team's 59-49 loss to Eastern Kentucky, which is coached by former La Salle captain Jeff Neubauer.
ESPN's Digger Phelps predicted Illinois would end Ohio State's unbeaten streak. Which wasn't that outrageous. He also said the Illini would hold Buckeyes freshman big man Jared Sullinger way down. Sulllinger got 27 points and 16 rebounds. Digger continues on an amazing 0-for-life run.
Delaware senior Jawan Carter hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give his team a 64-62 win at Georgia State, which is here tonight to play Drexel.
DICK JERARDI'S TOP 15
1. Ohio State (20-0): Trailed by eight in the second half at Illinois before storming back to win, 73-68. Have won 10 straight Big Ten road games.
2. San Diego State (20-0): Off this weekend. Huge game at BYU on Wednesday.
3. Pittsburgh (19-1): Nobody is playing any better than the Panthers. Crushed poor DePaul, 80-50.
4. Duke (18-1): Buried Wake Forest, 83-59. Wake's five ACC losses have been by an average of 25.6 points.
5. Kansas (18-1): The streak is over. KU has been flirting with a home loss all season. Texas got them 74-63 at Allen, ending a 69-game home winning streak.
6. Connecticut (16-2): Did something Villanova or Pittsburgh could not do - beat Tennessee. The score in Hartford was 72-61 and the performance was solid.
7. Villanova (17-2): Loved everything about the 83-72 win at Syracuse. The shooting, the pace, the team defense was all high caliber in a frenzied environment.
8. BYU (19-1): My man went off again. Jimmer Fredette had 42 points in 94-85 win at Colorado State. With each outburst, he is lengthening a short lead in the player of the year race.
9. Texas (16-3): Trailed Kansas 18-3 before storming back to end the streak at Allen. Longhorns have navigated a very difficult schedule and come out the other side.
10. Syracuse (18-2): The zone was torched by Pittsburgh on Monday and Villanova on Saturday. Maybe Jim Boeheim was right when he said this was his most overrated team.
11. Texas A&M (17-2): After getting crushed by Texas, the Aggies beat reeling Kansas State, 64-56. K-State (13-7) has to be the most disappointing team in the country.
12. Missouri (17-3): Blew away Iowa State, 87-54. Cyclones shot just 19-for-70 (27.1 percent).
13. Purdue (17-3): Shot 58 percent and beat Michigan State, 86-76. Huge game at Ohio State tomorrow when the two best bigs in America, Purdue senior JaJuan Johnson and Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, face off.
14. Notre Dame (16-4): Ben Hansbrough had a career-best 28 points as Irish came from 12 down to beat Marquette, 80-76.
15. Vanderbilt (14-4): Beat a very good St. Mary's team, 89-70. Starting to get healthy so a clear SEC factor.