Villanova 78, Syracuse 75
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Curtis Sumpter had 20 points and 15 rebounds, Scottie Reynolds scored 22 points and Dante Cunningham had 21 to lead Villanova to a 78-75 win over Syracuse on Saturday.
The Wildcats (21-9, 9-7 Big East) bolstered their chance for a higher seed in the conference tournament and a bid to the NCAA tournament. They’ve won three straight and seven of nine and are playing their best basketball of the season entering next week’s Big East tournament.
Eric Devendorf scored 33 points for Syracuse (21-9, 10-6), which saw its five-game winning streak snapped.
Reynolds, the super freshman guard, has sparked Villanova of late. He scored 40 points against Connecticut on Wednesday night, then held off a late Orange run on a spinning layup and a drive down the lane that left everyone else standing around.
Both teams entered with a shot to improve their conference tourney seeding, and emotions and elbows were high. There were a combined 39 fouls, and bodies big and small were thumping all over the court.
Cunningham was whistled for an intentional foul with 3.9 seconds left and Villanova clinging to a 78-74 lead. Demetris Nichols missed the first free throw, made the second, then missed a tying 3-pointer right before the buzzer.
Syracuse forward Paul Harris was hit with a technical foul midway through the second half when he got rough with Reggie Redding. Redding hit two free throws that tied the game at 47.
Reynolds and Devendorf each hit 3-pointers that gave their team the lead. But the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to go up 59-53 and never trailed again.
Sumpter, who came up with the clutch effort the Wildcats will need from him in the postseason, hit a 3-pointer to give Villanova a 10-point lead. But Nichols and Andy Rautins each hit 3s in the final minute that pulled the Orange to 73-70. The Wildcats sealed it from the line and made 29 of 32 free throws overall.
The Wildcats missed 20 of 27 shots in the first half, including 9 of 12 3-pointers. That was the break the Orange needed to compensate for their own ugly numbers (12-for-37; 32 percent). Devendorf bailed out Syracuse with 11 points to help the Orange to a 35-31 lead at the break.
Philadelphia Eagles stars and famous alumni Brian Westbrook (Villanova) and Donovan McNabb (Syracuse) each cheered on their teams.