At the midway point of its regular-season schedule, Villanova has proven it can overcome large deficits to win games. The 25th-ranked Wildcats, though, have yet to show they can win on the road in the Big East.
They’ll get another chance Saturday when they visit a Syracuse team looking to remain unbeaten on its home court in conference play.
Villanova (12-3, 2-2) has alternated road losses with home wins since beginning conference play. At home on Wednesday, the Wildcats trailed by as many as 16 points against DePaul - and by seven midway through the second half - before scoring 15 unanswered points to rally for a 76-69 victory.
“We weren’t going to let down,” said freshman forward Antonio Pena, who had 17 points, matching his career high while reaching double figures for the third straight game.
Scottie Reynolds scored 21 points to lead the Wildcats, while Dante Cunningham added 14 points and tied his career high with 13 rebounds.
It wasn’t even the most dramatic comeback win of the season for Villanova, which came from 21 down to beat LSU 68-67 on Dec. 6.
“I think all of us have this confidence this year that we’re never out of a game,” coach Jay Wright said after Wednesday’s win.
The Wildcats, though, have come up short in two Big East road games, falling 84-76 at DePaul on Jan. 3 and 69-66 last Saturday at Cincinnati.
Breaking into the win column away from home in conference could be difficult against the Orange (13-5, 3-2), who have won their first three Big East matchups at the Carrier Dome by an average margin of 13.3 points.
These teams split their two meetings last season, with the home team winning each time. Syracuse beat Villanova 75-64 at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 13, 2007. The Wildcats, though, won their previous visit to Syracuse 92-82 on March 5, 2006.
Much like Villanova, home court has been a major factor in conference play for the Orange, who are 0-2 on the road against Big East opponents.
After a winless two-game trip, though, Syracuse returned home Wednesday and defeated Rutgers 81-59. After the game, Orange coach Jim Boeheim said the Big East’s depth is making it tougher to win away from home in league play.
“I think you have teams all the way up and down that get you on their home court and can win,” Boeheim said. “In the past you might have had three or four teams that were good enough to hold their home court. Now really everybody is. I think it will continue to be difficult.”
Freshman guard Jonny Flynn led Syracuse on Wednesday with 24 points - his highest total since scoring 28 against Siena in his collegiate debut on Nov. 12. Fellow freshman Donte Greene added 19 points while sophomore Paul Harris had 18.
Led by Greene (18.9 ppg), Flynn (14.5) and Harris (13.6), the Orange are receiving 84.7 percent of their scoring from underclassmen - the highest such percentage in the Big East.