Season record goes to 6-6 as St. John's loses to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. It was a more competitive game than I thought it might be, and featured a few good moments from the Red Storm. It was better than the kind of game I mentioned yesterday, where your team scraps to come within 10 and there's never any hope.
In last night's game, St. John's came close to scratching the edge of hope with some good runs. But they couldn't handle Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku or Donte' Greene, who they didn't cover on multiple possessions early in the first half.
The team came out scrappy, and played well in the Dome until the final 6 minutes, when they started pressing. Malik Boothe's contributions don't show up in the box score (more on that later) but he got the Johnnies playing at a better pace. St John's found the gaps and Justin Burrell truly exploited them on his way to 16 points.
But the team didn't score, and part of that is on the decision to start Sean Evans over Larry Wright, though Wright did pick up some quick fouls and did rush some shots when he was in the game (his position-mate, Paris Horne, rushed some outside jumpers also). Wright did hit 3-7 3-pointers in 7 minutes-- two of those in the waning minutes of the game, so maybe the shooter just needs more time.
Anthony Mason took 7 of his shots from beyond the arc, making only 2, but made 2-3 inside the arc. Joining him on the bricklaying line was fellow veteran Eugene Lawrence who went 1-7 from the field, 0-5 from the three-point arc. More on the scoring later.
Justin Burrell played like a man, scoring 21 points along with 12 rebounds in 39 minutes.
From the papers:
Welcome to the Big East, St. John's coach Norm Roberts told his young team after it lost to Syracuse, 76-70, at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night.
"It's different, because it's so physical, every night's a battle and every possession counts," Roberts said after the conference opener for both teams. "You can tell kids what it's like, but until they experience playing in the Carrier Dome in front of 20,000 fans, they just don't know."
With the Red Storm starting three freshmen and Roberts going with five freshmen on the floor for a significant stretch in the second half, the young Johnnies learned a tough lesson about the league.
"It was exactly what I expected," said freshman forward Justin Burrell, who scored 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting. "It was a tough place to play. The fans were loud, but we had to focus and execute. Syracuse executed better than we did. That's all we can say."....
"We worked hard tonight, but mistakes are part of the game for us now, because we are young," Burrell said. "We are taking a step each game. We are continuing to grow."
Forget all the technical basketball jargon, his dexterity on both sides of the hoop, his ability to make a move in the post. Nope, freshman Scoop Jardine knows exactly why Arinze Onuaku can't be stopped.
"He's a big boy," Jardine said of the Syracuse center. "He just played like a monster (Wednesday). They just can't stop him. He's so strong. I remember one guy asking, 'How many pounds does he squat?'
"AO is an animal. He's an animal. He's just patient on the block. He doesn't miss a lot. The ones he misses he should make."
Wednesday night, he didn't miss many. Onuaku finished with 13 rebounds and a career-high 23 points and carried Syracuse during crucial stretches in the Orange's 76-70 win over St. John's in front of 17,487 at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night.
Onuaku has made 68.3 percent of his field goal attempts this season, second in the Big East.
"Coach just kept saying they can't stop me, so keep getting the ball in the post," Onuaku said. "They were playing me behind so I was just trying to catch the ball and make good moves around the basket."
Syracuse led nearly the entire game, once by 14 points in the first half, but was unable to put St. John's away until Onuaku took charge in the the closing minutes with Greene playing with four fouls.
After Mason, who sat for 10 minutes in the second half after picking up his fourth foul, hit a 3-pointer to move the Red Storm within 58-55 at 8:17, Onuaku hit a hook, a follow and a left-handed scoop off the glass to boost the Orange lead back to 68-61 with 4:50 remaining.
Two free throws by Flynn, a layup by Onuaku and a dunk by Greene off an alley-oop pass from Jardine made it 72-61 with 3:08 remaining. The Red Storm ran out of time after Wright drained a 3 to put St. John's within 73-68 with 40 seconds left.
The first half featured a big run by each team. Greene, who missed the first 3-pointer he tried, swished four of his next five 3s and also added a pair of baseline jumpers to key the Orange attack. Greene's 3 from the right corner and a follow by Onuaku completed a 14-0 Syracuse surge that gave the Orange a 19-6 lead at 14:21.
Undaunted, St. John's stormed back with a 14-4 spurt. Burrell, who had 14 points in the period, converted a follow slam after a miss by Malik Boothe to move the Red Storm within 28-24 at 6:34.
Just over a minute later, Greene's attempt at a one-handed slam dunk bounced high in the air off the back of the rim and Burrell grabbed the rebound and fed Boothe for a fast-break layup to move St. John's within 30-28.
Two mid-range jumpers by Harris, another 3 by Greene, and Flynn's 3-pointer from the left side at the buzzer gave Syracuse a 41-34 halftime lead.