VILLANOVA WAS unbeaten, playing beautifully and mostly crushing everybody. Syracuse was not playing well at all and came to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday as the worst three-point shooting team in the country.
This was not that 'Cuse team and, for the longest time, it was not that 'Nova team, either.
The 'Cuse led by 15 with 90 seconds to go in the first half and five with 12 seconds left in regulation.
Villanova (11-0) is still unbeaten, one of nine remaining. Syracuse (6-4) played its best game of the season, led for all but 24 seconds of regulation, got four players in double figures, shot nearly 50 percent and lost in overtime, 82-77.
How to explain? Jay Wright's team is many things - relentless might be at the top of the list.
These Wildcats just don't get discouraged. They closed quickly to start the second half, but Syracuse kept holding them off. Villanova had just three chances to tie or lead until the final seconds and did not convert.
Then, Josh Hart hit a three, the Orange committed a live-ball turnover in the backcourt and JayVaughn Pinkston's layup with 4.2 seconds left gave Villanova its first tie since 0-0.
The Wildcats were 11-for-12 from the foul line in OT, in which they never trailed. Better than trying to explain how, perhaps it is better to just enjoy the journey. Their seniors - Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard - were huge, with 48 points and seven steals between them. Pinkston also found time to get 10 rebounds, tie the game in the final seconds and make huge defensive plays. Hilliard, who plays with incredible passion, had to miss most of the OT after leaving the game with a possible concussion.
Sophomore Hart's late three was the biggest shot of the game, but not his only big shot. He had 21 points off the bench.
Villanova did not have a 20-point scorer in its first nine games. Now, it has had five in its last two, including Hart and Hilliard twice. Oh, and its point guard Ryan Arcidiacono had nine assists and zero turnovers against the 'Cuse.
The WFC was jammed with 18,369. The fans obviously know this is special. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said 'Nova won't be getting 18,000 for any of its other WFC games this season (Marquette, Georgetown, St. John's). He might be wrong about that.
All of a sudden, Saint Joseph's has become a scoring machine. Going back to the second half of the Loyola game on Dec. 9, SJU outscored its opposition, 75-27, over 35 game minutes. It was 35-9 after 15 minutes at Marist on the way to a 75-58 blowout. Now, Marist (1-10) and Loyola were certainly factors, but the Hawks (6-4) were having trouble scoring against anybody before those two halves.
The Hawks shot 28-for-50 (56 percent) against Marist. Isaiah Miles got a career-high 23 points. He was 9-for-14 and 4-for-7 from three. DeAndre' Bembry had a sensational line - 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
La Salle's defense has been ahead of its offense most of the season. It was way ahead of Towson's offense in a never-close 67-53 win. It was 32-15 at the half. The Tigers (7-4) shot just 15-for-46 (32 percent) and 0-for-14 from three. La Salle had 11 steals, five blocks and only nine turnovers.
And Jordan Price has really started to heat up. He had a career-best 31 points (8-for-16, 3-for-7 from three, 12-for-14 from the line) against Towson after getting 26 points and that regulation buzzer-beating halfcourt shot in Tuesday's OT loss to American. Steve Zack had 14 rebounds for the Explorers (6-5).
Drexel trailed Penn State by 20 points with 7 minutes left in the new PPL Center in Allentown. Exactly 2:45 later, it was five points, but it got no closer as PSU won it, 73-68.
The Dragons hit three treys in 62 seconds to start the comeback. PSU, which had played brilliantly, had five turnovers in 2 1/2 minutes to give the Dragons (2-8) life. But Penn State (11-1) is off to its best start since the 1995-96 team began 13-0 and has been the masters of the close win. PSU is 7-0 in games decided by six points or less.
It was a day for reunions. Starting freshman point guards Rashann London (Drexel) and Shep Garner (PSU) were teammates at Roman Catholic. Longtime Episcopal Academy coach Dan Dougherty was honored by two of his former players - Drexel coach Bruiser Flint and PSU coach Patrick Chambers. They gave him a commemorative game ball right before the tip.