Villanova will look for its fourth consecutive victory when it battles Syracuse in the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night in New York City.
The No. 6-ranked Wildcats (6-2) won their last three games against Big 5 opponents — La Salle, Pennsylvania and Saint Joseph’s. They crushed the Hawks 81-52 on Saturday.
Collin Gillespie led the way with 23 points and the Wildcats clamped down defensively, holding St. Joe’s to 7-for-31 shooting from 3-point territory.
“That was a good defensive performance by us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I was impressed.”
Justin Moore also was clutch with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists after missing all four shots in the first half.
“I’m really proud of him,” Wright said of Moore. “He wasn’t making shots the last couple of games, but I thought he was dominant in the Penn game even without shots falling. Today he was unbelievable defensively.”
All five starters scored in double figures for Villanova, which is one of the most balanced teams in the country. Players don’t force shots in Wright’s offense, which focuses on ball movement.
“We’re not worried about our shots going in, and I’m not worried about my shot going in,” Moore said. “We take pride in defending and rebounding. The rest will take care of itself as long as I’m rebounding and playing team defense.”
Villanova has played one of the most difficult schedules in the country with battles against UCLA, Purdue and Tennessee. Syracuse will present another early season challenge for the Wildcats, who are hoping to extend their depth.
“Getting some of the younger guys minutes is valuable too,” Wright said. “Game minutes are more valuable than anything.”
These two programs haven’t met since Dec. 20, 2014.
Syracuse will be searching for its third straight win when it faces Villanova.
The Orange (5-3) defeated Indiana 112-110 in double overtime last Tuesday and followed with a 63-60 road victory Saturday against Florida State.
Joseph Girard III had 16 points for Syracuse while Cole Swider added 16 points and 10 rebounds. In an interesting subplot, Swider transferred from Villanova to Syracuse after last season.
Like Villanova, the Orange finds the most success when their zone defense is clicking.
They have enough shooters such as Girard, Swider and Buddy Boeheim, who can score points in bunches.
“The defense won the game for us,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We kept getting stops when we needed to have them, and when they put their shooters in, we tried to take advantage of them on the offensive end, and I thought we did a really good job of that. When you are down by eight on the road and come back to win it, that is hard to do and it was a tremendous character win.”
Syracuse started slowly in splitting its first six games before this recent surge.
“This is what we work for every day as a team. We’re capable of doing a lot of good things,” Buddy Boeheim said. “Everyone can help us. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to give effort whether we’re up or down.”
–Field Level Media