NEW YORK—In the battle for the Empire State, Syracuse showed St. John’s why they’re still the king.
In a sloppy first half marred by turnovers—each team had 10—Syracuse was able to jump out to 35–24 lead en route to a convincing 76–59 victory.
A Dwight Hardy 3-pointer with 3:09 to go in the half cut Syracuse’s lead to one at 25–24. But St. John’s would go cold the rest of the half as the Orange went on a 10–0 run.
With Syracuse catching fire in the second half, it didn’t take long for them to take an insurmountable lead over the Johnnies.
Even though the Orange turned the ball over 10 more times in the second half, they improved their field goal percentage from 51.9 percent in the first half to 63 percent in the second half, shooting 57.4 percent for the game.
St. John’s on the other hand only shot 36.8 percent from the field. The Red Storm (10–5, 3–2) struggled against the Orange’s (17–0, 4–0) zone defense in the loss.
“It’s real tough,” senior guard D.J. Kennedy said about playing against the zone defense. “They’re known for having a great zone and frustrating teams with the length they have on their team.”
And that great zone defense comes from the man who’s been orchestrating it at Syracuse for the last quarter century.
“[Head] coach [Jim] Boeheim has a great sense and feel for the zone in terms of how to teach it and the adjustments to make based on personnel he’s facing, and also the group that he has from year to year,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said.
“He’s able to plug players into the specific roles on the baseline or up top, and because of their size and length, there’s just not many open looks at the rim or the basket.”
Playing with their big men on the baseline to get rebounds and their guards up top to get out and run in the open court, the 2-3 zone opens up the fast break game. The Orange took advantage of that against the Johnnies scoring 12 fast break points.
Syracuse junior forward Kris Joseph led the scoring with 18 points. The Orange got a double-digit night from three other players is Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardin, and Rick Jackson.
Jackson notched a double-double pulling down 10 boards as Cuse dominated St. John’s on the glass 28–17.
Justin Brownlee and Hardy—who scored 13 and 12 points respectively— led the Johnnies.
St. John’s will have a few days to regroup as they get set to take on No. 9 Notre Dame at the Garden on Sunday.
“We got to go back to the drawing board,” Kennedy said. “That [Syracuse] is the No. 4 team in the country. We played hard in the first half in spurts, but tomorrow’s a new day in the Big East and we just got to look forward to the next game.
“We just have to learn from our mistakes from this game and continue to the next.”
Follow Matt on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MattSugam and tune in every Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST on WRSU-FM as he cohost’s Scarlet Fever discussing Rutgers, Big East basketball, football, and other New York sports.