Coach Jay Wright has praised his team’s play, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering Villanova is undefeated.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim gave a rather blunt assessment of his team, simply saying it’s not close to being good.
These former Big East rivals meet Saturday when the seventh-ranked Wildcats host the Orange at the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite having already faced three teams that have appeared in the Top 25, Villanova has rarely been tested, outscoring opponents by an average of 19.4 points. The Wildcats made quick work of Temple on Sunday, shooting 52.9 percent in an 85-62 victory.
“Good win for us against a tough team,” Wright said. “I am very proud of how we played. They are a good defensive team and to score 85 points on them is something to be proud of.”
The Wildcats are 10-0 for the second straight year. They started 11-0 last season before losing to Syracuse 78-62 at the Carrier Dome.
In last year’s matchup – their first since the Orange left the Big East – Villanova was ranked eighth while Syracuse was No. 2. While the Wildcats are still considered one of the nation’s top teams, the Orange are off to a sluggish start.
Syracuse (6-3) is shooting 22.9 percent from 3-point range – the worst mark of the 86 teams from the seven power conferences – and has turned the ball over more than 12 times in four games after doing it twice all of last season.
They had 17 turnovers Sunday against Louisiana Tech but managed to hold on for a 71-69 victory and avoid a third straight loss.
”We’re learning, I hope. I don’t see it, but I hope we will learn,” Boeheim said. ”There’s not much time left. Nothing is going to happen magically, but I know I cannot coach catching the basketball at this stage.
”Whatever I thought about this team, they’re not. This team is nowhere near being a good basketball team. Anywhere. I’ve never said that since I’ve been here. Not that they couldn’t be, but they’re not.”
There were a few positives, though, as Trevor Cooney had a season-high 25 points and Tyler Roberson scored 14 on 7-of-13 shooting while grabbing 17 rebounds – 11 on the offensive glass.
”It’s a big confidence-builder going into Villanova. I’m looking forward to building on it,” Roberson said. ”I just want to bring energy every game and make things happen.”
The Wildcats are thriving without a true go-to scorer. Seven players average at least 7.4 points with Dylan Ennis leading the team at 12.3.
Villanova had not had someone score 20 points in a game until Josh Hart and Darrun Hilliard each had 20 against Temple. Both players made 6 of 7 shots and hit three 3-pointers.
”It nice, though, when a couple of guys get it going,” Wright said.
Villanova is heating up from 3-point range, shooting 43.8 percent in its last five games after shooting 28.9 in the first five.
This will be the Wildcats’ second game of the season at the Wells Fargo Center. They’ve won seven of eight there, including an overtime victory over the third-ranked Orange in January 2013.
“Every game is important to us,” Wright said. “The maturity of our guys has allowed us to handle that well. But you can feel the vibe around the game. We could feel it when we were getting ready for Temple. We know it’s there for Syracuse. People love those games. We love being able to play any time.”