The Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) Orange's 72-61 win over Villanova (11-5, 2-1) on Saturday was a typical Big East battle with plenty of physical play and unexpected players stepping up to lead their team to the win.
Before Saturday's game tipped off at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse forward James Southerland was suspended indefinitely by the university.
The absence of Southerland left a big void in Jim Boeheim's rotation that was looking for lesser known players to fill.
That void was undoubtedly filled in the second half against Villanova.
After going into the half down by two to the Wildcats, the Orange needed a spark to ignite the start to the second half.
C.J. Fair was the player who provided that spark for the home team, who scored 11 of his team's first 13 points in the second half.
Fair ended with a game-high 22 points, a total that was just three off of his season-high of 25.
In the first seven minutes of the second half, the junior forward excelled on the court and stepped up into the leadership position after senior Brandon Triche picked up his fourth foul during that time span.
While Triche sat on the bench, his teammates picked up the slack and ignited the Carrier Dome with plenty of energy.
Helping Fair out on the court were a pair of freshmen, Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant.
Cooney made two consecutive three-pointers with seven minutes left in the game to extend the Syracuse lead to a game-high 14.
Grant also contributed in the scoring department for the Orange with a career-high 12 points off the bench.
Villanova closed the gap in the final four minutes to make the final score look better on paper, but they deserved to lose as their youth showed for most of the second half.
During their attempted comeback in the second half, the inexperienced Wildcats began to throw up long-range threes and turned the ball over on a regular basis.
One positive for the Wildcats in their road loss was the performance of senior center Mouphtaou Yarou, who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Before the two teams meet again on January 26 in Philadelphia they will both face difficult challenges in Big East play.
The next time that the Wildcats hit the court will be on Wednesday when they host Pittsburgh.
Syracuse will have to wait a week until they make the trek down to Louisville to play the third-ranked Cardinals.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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