Syracuse Makes Case for Top Seed, Takes Big East Title in Swan Song
|Scott Loy scored three goals as
the Orange beat Villanova 13-9 in the Big East title game.
Syracuse, which will leave for the ACC this summer, is in the
running for the top seed in the NCAA tournament.
© Kevin P. Tucker
VILLANOVA, Pa. — For one final season, Syracuse is the top team in the Big East.
Now the question turns to whether the Orange are the top team in the country.
Kevin Rice had two goals and three assists and No. 5 Syracuse held off a desperate Villanova squad 13-9 in the Big East men's championship game Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium. The victory gave the Orange (13-3) an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament and eliminated No. 20 Villanova (7-8) from contention.
It is the seventh victory in eight games for 'Cuse, and its eighth win this season over a current top-20 team, two more than No. 1 North Carolina has on its resume.
“I haven’t looked that closely at everybody’s RPI and strength of schedule,” said Syracuse coach John Desko, when asked about the possibility of being the No. 1 seed. “We have as many or more wins as most people in the Top 20 and in the Top 5. It depends how they’ll look at the losses. Hobart might hurt us a little bit. But everybody’s got three, four, five losses, and we probably have the best wins. So we have an argument for it, sure.”
That argument received a significant boost on Saturday, a day in which the Orange scored off the opening faceoff and never trailed.
After the teams traded early goals, Hakeem Lecky scored to give Syracuse the lead for good, 3-2, with 3:21 remaining in the first. SU’s lead reached 8-5 when Scott Loy scored just before halftime, and the Orange led 11-6 after three.
Villanova’s offense was solid in transition all day, and that helped the Wildcats stage a fourth-quarter rally, but it wasn’t enough. The Wildcats turned the ball over 15 times to Syracuse’s 13, but as Villanova coach Mike Corrado said, “It felt like a lot more.”
SU’s Rice led all players with five points and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Loy had a game-high three goals, Derek Maltz had two goals and Dylan Donahue chipped in one goal and two assists for the Orange.
Syracuse star JoJo Marasco was held to one goal and one assist. Nova’s defenders said keeping Marasco from racking up assists was a goal coming in. Syracuse capitalized on that.
“Early on [in the season] we were pretty vanilla,” Desko said. “Now these other guys are going up and creating offense and getting open because they know if JoJo has the ball in his stick, they have the opportunity to score.”
Said Rice: “A lot of teams use their pole as a primary slide man. When you have JoJo, teams are very hesitant to come off of him and give him any space. That opens up more dodging opportunities for everyone else.”
Marasco did dish out his 35th assist of the season, passing SU legend Paul Gait for the most assists in a season by an SU midfielder.
Jack Rice, Chris Piccirilli and Tim Mulrenan each had two goals for Villanova and Nick Doherty added two assists.
This was the final Big East tournament for Syracuse, which heads for the clear waters of the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
“Having Syracuse in the conference has been a great positive to our conference,” said Corrado. “The opportunity to tell recruits, ‘Come to the Big East. You’ll have the opportunity to compete against Syracuse.’ Unfortunately, they’ve gotten the better of us in the last two tournaments, but I’ll remember them as a great opportunity to help our program grow.”
As for Syracuse, the Orange aren’t yet looking toward the ACC — unless they see one of those teams in the NCAA tournament.
“The work's not over,” said Syracuse defenseman Brian Megill. “We can’t be satisfied with what we have right now. It’s a great team win all around, great team defense was played today, but we have bigger things ahead of us on the horizon.”