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NEWS & BLUES(August 5, 2015)



Publication: Syracuse New Times
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 58875
ISSN: 0893844X
Journal code: SYNT

From his faraway seat in Section 336 at the Carrier Dome, Wayne Horton got the last laugh. About an hour before the Jan. 22 basketball game between the No. 7 Villanova Wildcats and No. 3 Syracuse Orange, Horton and two of his children, Joe and Jenna, took a lap around the Dome floor. Horton, of Albany, was wearing a Villanova shirt and hat, and he bravely paraded past the frenzied Syracuse University student section.

"I warned him," Joe Horton said, smiling. Horton heard the kind of boos that, in this town, are normally reserved for retired Georgetown coach John Thompson or former SU football coach Greg Robinson's play calling. There might have been some choice words tossed his way, too, but Horton said he couldn't hear anything other than the boos.

When Horton bumped into another Wildcats fan wearing a Villanova shirt, he waved toward the student section and said, "Don't go that way." Clearly, the Dome crowd was loud, large and lively, but only Villanova fans like Horton went home happy.

The Wildcats used 3-point shooting to build an 11-point lead in the first half and free throws to hold off the Orange in the second half as they downed SU 83-72 before 33,736 fans-the second largest on-campus crowd in NCAA history. The largest, of course, was last year's 34,616 for the same matchup at the Dome. That one ended much better for the Orange with a 95-77 win over the Wildcats.

Norm Gauthier, of North Syracuse, is a season-ticket holder who was at last year's Villanova game. He said fans continue to come out in record numbers for these big games because they're events that "help us get through the winter. It's our team and we love our team and root for these kids," said Gauthier, who wore a "Beat 'Nova" T-shirt and an Orange hard hat to complement his blue-painted beard. "Win or lose, we embrace the heck out of this team."

The near-record crowd on Saturday included former SU stars Derrick Coleman, Dwayne "Pearl" Washington and John Wallace, as well as Orange punter Rob Long, who's battling cancer and received a loud cheer from the SU students. Coleman, who lifted SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor off her feet with a bear hug before the game, often rose from his seat behind the basket closest to the SU bench and waved his arms, imploring the crowd to get even louder.

Villanova, 11-6 at the Dome since 1990, jumped out to an early lead and never let SU get on the kind of run that doomed the Wildcats in last year's game. Facing SU's famed 2-3 zone, the Wildcats simply shot over it, making 8-of-13 3-point shots in the first half. Maalik Wayns, who grew up in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood as SU's Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson and Dion Waiters, sank three 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the first half. Wayns, who entered the game averaging 13.5 points per outing, led the Wildcats with 21 points.

"We knew from last year {what it would be like at the Dome}," Wayns said. "We never talked about it; we talked about 94-by-50 feet {the size of the court} and just worry about that."

When SU broke its huddle before the second half, Coleman intercepted the starting five and gathered them together and asked them to fight back. The Orange tightened its perimeter defense in the second half-the Wildcats shot 3-for-11 from long range-and a 9-0 Orange run capped by Kris Joseph's steal and breakaway dunk sliced Villanova's lead to 69-65 with just under three minutes left.

The Dome was rocking, but Villanova never rolled over. The Wildcats, the Big East Conference's best free throw-shooting team, shot 12-for-12 from the foul line in the closing minutes to seal the deal. "We weren't worrying about the crowd," said Villanova's Corey Fisher, who shot 5-of-5 from the line. "That's something a lot of people get caught up in. I know they've got good support up here, but we were going to come in here and play hard."

Forward Kris Joseph, who returned from a head injury to lead SU with 23 points, said he was disappointed the Orange couldn't send the fans home with a victory. SU is now 5-2 when playing before more than 33,000 fans at the Dome, and both of those losses are to Villanova. "You never want to lose at home," Joseph noted. "We definitely play for our fans. We play for ourselves, we play for our fans, and we play to represent Syracuse University."

Villanova coach Jay Wright said the Wildcats, who defeated a top-3 team on the road for the first time in 16 years, played their most complete game of the season against the Orange. The Wildcats sank a season-high 11 3-pointers and shot 46 percent from long range, the best against SU this season. "That was a great game to be part of. Great atmosphere," Wright said. "This is just an amazing place to play college basketball."

The Orange, meanwhile, entered the Tuesday, Jan. 25, game against Seton Hall at the Dome looking to snap its first two-game losing streak since last March-Louisville in the regular-season finale and Georgetown in the Big East Tournament. SU lost at Pittsburgh Jan. 17, and Coach Jim Boeheim said after the Villanova game that the Orange probably didn't deserve that No. 3 ranking.

"We played two teams this week {Pitt and Villanova} who I think are legitimate top five or six teams in the country," Boeheim said. "We are not good enough. We're just not good enough right now."

Orange slices: SU's Jackson, who notched his Big East-leading 13th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds against Villanova, is the sixth player in SU history with 1,000 career points, 800 rebounds and 200 blocks. The others: Coleman, Roosevelt Bouie, Wallace, Rony Seikaly and Etan Thomas.

In SU football news, Orange running back Delone Carter ran for 54 yards and a touchdown and was named the offensive MVP for the East team as the East defeated the West 25-8 last Saturday in Orlando, Fla., in the East-West Shrine Game, an annual showcase for college seniors. Carter, who's expected to be selected in the NFL draft in April, was also the MVP of the Orange's 36-34 victory over Kansas State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in December.

Orange senior linebacker Doug Hogue was one of 26 Football Bowl Subdivision players selected for the 2010 East Coast Athletic Conference All-Star team. Hogue, an All-Big East First Team pick, also played in the East-West Shrine Game.

-Matt Michael

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