SYRACUSE (WBNG BINGHAMTON) No. 2 Syracuse (12-0) used a 20-0 run to overcome an early, 18-point deficit, and went on to defeat No. 8 Villanova (11-1), 78-62, in the Carrier Dome.
The victory was Syracuse's 50th-straight non-conference win in the Dome. The largest on-campus crowd of the season, 28,135, were on hand to watch the two former BIG EAST Conference combatants battle.
It was the Orange's largest comeback since Jan. 30, 2010 when the team came back from down 18 to win at DePaul, 59-57.
Villanova opened the contest by jumping out to a 20-5 lead. James Bell, who ended up with a game-high 25, had a trio of 3-point plays in the early going. Following five straight points from Josh Hart, the Wildcats took their largest lead of the day, 25-7, with 11 minutes remaining in the opening half.
SU rallied with 20 unanswered points, including eight by Trevor Cooney and six from C.J. Fair. After Villanova knotted things up again at 27, a 3-pointer from Cooney gave the Orange a lead it would not relinquish.
Redshirt sophomore Trevor Cooney led Syracuse in scoring for the second time in as many games with 21 points. Freshman Tyler Ennis reached the 20-point plateau for the second time this season, finishing with 20.
Senior C.J. Fair (17 points) and sophomore Jerami Grant (11) were the other two Orange men in double-figures. Both players tied for game-high board honors with six.
Bell started the second half the same way he began the game – with a basket from long range - to pull the visitors within one at 38-37. However, the Wildcats wouldn't get any closer as the Orange responded with nine consecutive points for the club's first double-digit advantage of the day at 47-37. The teams exchanged points over the next eight minutes to push the score to 56-49 in favor of SU with 8:32 to go.
A three from Bell and free throw by Daniel Ochefu brought Villanova close at 56-53, only to have Syracuse counter with a Cooney trifecta and two free throws by Fair to extend the lead back to eight at 61-53. Bell's sixth and final three of the game, which turned out to be the Wildcats' last basket, closed the gap to 64-59 with 3:26 left.
Syracuse ended the game on a 14-3 run with the team combining to go 12-of-14 from the charity stripe for the remainder of the contest. Ennis made six free throws and Cooney converted four in a row during the closing stretch.
After the Wildcats opened the encounter by making four straight threes, the SU zone adjusted and limited Villanova to 6-of-25 from behind the arc the rest of the way. Syracuse held Villanova to 19-of-50 from the field (.380) for the game.
The Orange closes out the non-conference schedule at home with Eastern Michigan on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 3 p.m.
(Courtesy: SU Athletics)