Can't Pull This One Out

The Orange have been playing down to the wire as of late, but this time, they were the ones making late-game mistakes instead of celebrating. More inside.

No team stands unbeaten as the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team was handed their first loss inside the Big East Conference by the Villanova Wildcats.

After defeating the Wildcats at home in the Carrier Dome, the Orange were returned the favor in their trip to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

To begin the game, Syracuse would trail 10-0, before scoring their first basket 3:29 into the contest.

An old-fashioned three-point-play by freshman forward Jerami Grant would bring the Orange within one possession at 14:59 to go in the first half, down 3. But, the Wildcats remained ferocious, heading back out to a double-digit at exactly 10 minutes to go in the first half, up 11.

Villanova would hold a double-digit lead on six separate occasions in the opening half, with their biggest advantage being 12 points.

But, Syracuse fought back late in the first half, keeping their deficit to less than 10 points from the 5:10 mark until the buzzer rang to signal the break in action.

Senior guard Brandon Triche's make from beyond the arc with 1:22 left in the first half once again got the Orange to a one possession deficit, down 3.

Yet once again, the Wildcats continued to add to their side of the scoreboard, refusing to give the advantage to the Orange.

Villanova never once gave up the reins of the game to Syracuse in the first half, leading the entire time, including by six at halftime.

The Orange were abysmal from the field to start, making a mere nine of their 31 first-half attempts.

No Syracuse player made more than two attempts from the field in the first half.

Sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas had the best field goal percentage for the Orange in the first half, connecting on 50% of his tries (2-for-4). Triche went 2-for-7, junior forward C.J. Fair 2-for-8, and sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams 2-for-9.

Triche was the only Syracuse player to cash in from long range, as the team as a whole made one of their five attempts.

Villanova took two less shots but made four more than Syracuse, shooting 44.8% in the first (13-for-29).

They also shot better from distance, making five of 14 attempts.

At the charity stripe, the Orange made seven of their 11 opportunities, while only placing the Wildcats on the line once.

That would not continue into the second half.

Coming out of the break, Syracuse would take the advantage for the first time in the game, 1:50 into the second half when Grant connected from long range to put Syracuse up 33-32 over Villanova.

But, the Wildcats did not take long to claw back in the lead, scoring on the following possession and keeping the advantage until 15:43 left in the match, when Christmas dunked the ball after an assist by Triche to tie the game at 37.

The Orange would lose the advantage once again but get it back for almost six minutes, beginning with a long range make by Carter-Williams with 14:23 remaining.

After two more ties, Syracuse would regain the lead at 5:56.

Villanova would trail the rest of regulation, but with 20 seconds to go, Carter-Williams of Syracuse would give them life. Off of a missed free throw attempt on a 1-and-1 opportunity, Villanova would grab the defensive rebound and call timeout with about 14 seconds to play.

Out of the timeout, the Wildcats attempted a three from the left corner, but missed. However, as they had been doing throughout the second half, they attacked the offensive glass and gave themselves a second chance at a tie. Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono did not disappoint, taking his attempt from about the exact same spot of junior guard James Bell's miss, but unlike Bell, he found the inside of the cylinder.

Syracuse had the lead for almost six minutes after trailing the majority of the way, but leads mean nothing if they do not last to the final buzzer. The decision by the Orange not to foul as well as failure to obtain a defensive rebound off of Bell's miss sent both teams into overtime.

In the extra period, Syracuse would gain back the advantage a little over a minute in when Carter-Williams completed an old-fashioned three-point-play. But, they would only hold onto it until 2:43 remaining. Bell added eight straight points for Villanova on back-to-back three-pointers followed by a jumper from inside the arc.

The Wildcats would then make four of their next six free throw attempts to close the door on the Orange for good, winning 75-71.

Syracuse would only make one more shot in the second half than they did in the first, taking seven less attempts and finishing 10-for-24 (41.7%).

For Villanova, the ball rattled in and out of the cylinder in the second half, where they made eight of 20 (40%).

The Wildcats being on the wrong side of the rim showed in their second half performance from long range, making two of nine, while the Orange improved from 1-for-5 to 4-for-7.

Though each team had 18 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points, the timing of Villanova's allowed for the momentum shift.

In overtime, the Wildcats only made one more basket than the Orange (3-for-8 compared to 2-for-8), but the difference was where the attempts were taken. Two of Villanova's three makes came from beyond the arc.

Many teams have attempted to use the three-point shot to defeat the 2-3 zone, but failed.

Instead of merely connecting from distance early in the match like others, the Wildcats remained a threat from deep all game, providing the difference between them and other Orange foes this season.

With the win, Villanova gets above .500 in the Big East at 4-3, while slicing into the Orange to hand them their first loss inside the conference, making them 6-1.

Before this defeat, Syracuse had not lost for over a month, dating back to their loss to the Temple Owls on December 22nd of last year. That loss was also on the road.

Both Orange losses have come against non-ranked teams, as they stand at 18-2, while the Wildcats have now taken down top-five ranked opponents back-to-back in Louisville and Syracuse, to rise to 13-7.

The Orange will have a week before their next contest, when they head back onto the northeast trail for a road match with the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, February 2nd, at Noon ET. It is the first and only scheduled meeting between the longtime foes this season.

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