No. 8 Syracuse 90, No. 22 Villanova 75

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Hakim Warrick had the trip home circled on his calendar long ago, ready to reunite with friends and family and enjoy a rare homecooked meal.

Oh yeah, he also wanted to show some of the city schools what they’re missing.

“I couldn’t wait to get out here and have a big game,” Warrick said.

The senior forward scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Gerry McNamara had 18 points in their return to their home state, helping No. 8 Syracuse send No. 22 Villanova to its worst loss of the season, 90-75 Saturday.

“I usually don’t get a chance to go home until after the season,” said Warrick, a Philly native. “It’s extra special having them be here to see me get my career high.”

The Wildcats (14-6, 5-5) simply didn’t have the size to stop Warrick, who was downright dominant in his best game of the season.

Warrick beat them offensively on easy feeds inside and had his way on the boards with seven offensive rebounds. Warrick was 10-for-14 from the field and 12-of-16 from the free throw line, with almost every look easy and uncontested.

He got a rise out of the sellout crowd with a string of dunks late in the second half, then flexed his muscles for an appreciative orange-clad crowd after he finished off one three-point play.

“I think this was one of my best games,” Warrick said.

No kidding.

The Orange (22-3, 9-2 Big East) looked nothing like the team that hit a mini-skid with two losses in their last three games, both to Top 25 teams.

In the last three games, Syracuse was outrebounded by an average of more than eight per game. Against the Wildcats, the Orange enjoyed a 42-34 edge and scored 26 second-chance points.

“It was probably the best we played defensively in a while,” said coach Jim Boeheim, who improved his career record to 698-237. “I thought this was one of our better efforts in the league. There was nothing much that was bad about today.”

McNamara had his usual strong following from Scranton, Pa., about 120 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Busloads of Orange fans made the trip and McNamara hugged a few of them during a timeout with 28 seconds left, nodding toward the others in what turned into a Syracuse home game.

“It’s definitely comfortable playing in front of people that are for you,” he said.

McNamara, though, is used to the faithful following. Warrick, who played at both University City High School and a prep school in Philly, seemed moved his mother was able to watch him play.

She might have been able to attend on a more regular basis, but Warrick said he was all but overlooked by Philadelphia’s six Division I schools.

“He’s pretty good for a skinny kid from Philadelphia,” Boeheim said.

Warrick and McNamara had some help, though. Josh Pace scored 21 points, Craig Forth had 10 rebounds and Billy Edelin had six points and four assists in his first start of the season.

Randy Foye scored 18 points and Curtis Sumpter had 13 for Villanova, which hadn’t lost by more than six points this season.

The Wildcats had won five of six, including victories over Kansas and Notre Dame at the Wachovia Center. The 76ers’ home court was no advantage a third time for the Wildcats.

Villanova was an awful 13-for-25 from the free throw line, well below its 74 percent average. Trailing by 10 late in the first half, the Wildcats missed five straight from the line and blew a major chance to get back into the game.

“When you miss free throws, sometimes it’s not just a bad night, it might be because the other team got in your head,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They did a good job of making us play in a hesitant way. Maybe you’re just due for one of these games. We just weren’t ourselves.”

Syracuse could have turned the game into a blowout even earlier if not for six turnovers over the first 6 1/2 minutes. Still, the Orange hit their first six shots from the field and finished at 62 percent overall in the half.

With Gov. Ed Rendell, New York Jets coach Herm Edwards and former Orange star Billy Owens watching from the stands, Syracuse finally got its game together midway through the first half. McNamara scored five straight points during an 18-9 run to close the half that made it 43-29.

The Orange needed the blowout—they host No. 18 Pitt on Monday night, then play at No. 4 Boston College, which has only one loss this season.

“Hopefully we can play our way through that and become a better team,” Boeheim said.

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