Jan. 11, 2013
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - In its more than three decades of visiting Syracuse's Carrier Dome in the BIG EAST era, Villanova has more than held its own, winning 13 times in 27 attempts in one of the most foreboding venues in college basketball.
On Saturday, the Wildcats (11-4 overall, 2-0 BIG EAST) take another crack at the Orange here. Syracuse brings a No. 7 ranking in both polls and a 15-1 overall record (3-0 BIG EAST) into the clash here that tips off just after noon (6 ABC/610 WIP Radio).
"We have such great respect for Syracuse," states Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "We are facing a great team in an area that loves its college basketball."
The Wildcats bring a seven-game winning streak with them to Central New York State. In that stretch, VU has developed a nine-man rotation that has demonstrated a knack for finding different paths to victory. In the BIG EAST opener, the `Cats scored a season-high 98 points in an overtime victory over St. John's. One week later, VU leaned on its defense to stifle USF in a 61-53 win.
In that contest, Villanova got a major lift from senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou, who delivered his first double-double of 2012-13 with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"I feel like Mouph tends to struggle more in the (non-conference) part of the season as a big body playing against smaller people," noted Wright. "When he gets into the Big East and plays against people his size, he usually plays better. He's been getting better and better - he's still a guy that hasn't played a lot of basketball. He just continues to work hard at it every day."
"We knew that it would be important for our forwards to establish themselves against such a good defensive team," noted Wright. "I thought Daniel and Mouph did a great job of that early."
Syracuse presents a myriad range of challenges. The Orange cruised past VU 79-66 in the only meeting between the teams last season and has stepped forward as one of the nation's elite units through the first half of 2012-13. Syracuse averages 79.4 ppg and allows its opponents 57.4 ppg. It is led in scoring by Brandon Triche (14.3 ppg) but can call on a strong bench that goes nine deep. The Orange are 10-0 this season at the Carrier Dome.
"Syracuse can hurt you in so many ways," Wright says. "They create so much offense when they turn teams over - we've taken better care of the basketball lately and will have to do an even better job of that in this game."
Villanova returns home next week to host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at the Pavilion (7:00 p.m./ESPNU).