After defeating Temple in a thrilling final two minutes last night, St. John’s will return to the Barclays Center tonight for the final of the Empire Classic, the four team early season tournament they are participating in. Their opponent will be Syracuse, who took down Richmond in OT at Barclays last night.
Against Temple, the Red Storm continued to struggle in the first half, trailing by as much as 13, although they cleaned up towards the end of the half to enter the break with a two-point lead.
The Johnnies held the lead for almost all of the second half, but some Temple scored towards the end of the game led to a 72-70 lead for Temple with a little over a minute left to play. A couple of Andre Curbelo buckets and some free throws in the final minute led to the 78-70 St. John’s victory.
Mike Anderson stuck to his guns last night, only using eight players, the smallest number he has used so far this season. The Johnnies struggled as a whole from deep, going a combined 3-13. Joel Soriano had a big game with 15 points and 12 rebounds, although Temple’s big Jamille Reynolds finished with 21.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (5-0) vs Syracuse Orange (3-1)
When: Tuesday, November 22, 2022, 9:30 PM
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Odds: St. John’s -3.5
History: With Syracuse formerly being in the Big East, the teams have faced off plenty of times, with Syracuse owning the all time record 51-40. Most recently, the Johnnies took down the Orange 93-60 on December 21, 2016 behind strong performances from Shamorie Ponds, Marcus LoVett, Malik Ellison, and Richard Freudenberg.
For the second game in a row, the Red Storm will be playing their toughest opponent to date, as Syracuse comes into the matchup with a KenPom of 58th out of 363, compared to the Red Storm’s current ranking of 34th. So far this season, Cuse has beaten Lehigh, Northeastern, and Richmond, while they dropped a game to Colgate at home.
The Orange are coached by the legendary Jim Boeheim, who is in his 47th season as head coach of the program. The Orange have struggled recently, playing the same style they have in the past — depending on a tough 2-3 zone and adjusting offensively to the talents of their personnel.
Last season, he led Cuse to a 16-17 record and a ninth place finish out of 15 ACC teams. Guard Buddy Boeheim and forward Jimmy Boeheim, Jim Boehiem’s sons, and forward Cole Swider are all playing pro ball this season; they return only two starters from last season.
One returning starter for Syracuse is 6-1 senior guard Joseph Girard III from Glens Falls, NY, who’s in his fourth season as Cuse’s starting point guard. So far this season, he’s averaging 21.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, and is making 4.3 threes a game at a 44.7% rate. Girard III is joined in the starting backcourt by a freshman, 6-3 guard Judah Mintz. Mintz was the #36 player in the ESPN 100 Class of 2022, and has averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 steals in his first four games of college ball.
Syracuse’s other returning starter comes in the frontcourt, in the form of 6-11 senior center Jesse Edwards, a fourth year Orange player and second year starter. He provides a big presence at the rim for Cuse, as this year he averages 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per contest.
Edwards is joined in the starting frontcourt by a couple of young forwards, 6-8 sophomore Benny Williams and 6-7 freshman Chris Bell. Williams played for the Orange last season in a limited role, and so far this year he averages 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. Bell is given the least minutes of all Cuse starters with 17.3 per game, and has averaged 4 points and 1 rebound so far this year.
Off the bench, only one player for Cuse averages more than 15 minutes, and none average more than four points. 6-3 senior guard Symir Torrence receives 19.3 minutes off the bench, and contributes 3.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
In addition to Torrence in Syracuse’s bench backcourt, 6-6 freshman guard Quadir Copeland has played in three games and 6-6 freshman guard Justin Taylor has played in four. In their bench backcourt, 6-8 freshman forward Malik Brown and 6-11 sophomore center Mounir Hima have both played in all four games off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Defense. Against Temple, St. John’s employed a second half defense with a lot of energy and full court press. They need another strong defensive effort against Cuse, especially in the backcourt, as the Orange have a pair of guards who average a combined 38.8 points per contest.
Strong start. This has been a key for the Red Storm for a while, as they continue to struggle early in games and have to claw their way up to a lead. The Johnnies could use a game where they get ahead early and dictate the pace of the game from there.
Be good down the stretch. Both Syracuse and St. John’s showed they could win a close battle last night, and the Red Storm need to do that again tonight against the most talented team they have played so far.
St. John’s scrapes their way to a 66-63 win.