Last night, when unbeaten Syracuse traveled to fabled Madison Square Garden to face the resurgent Johnnies of St. John’s, the game was being billed as the first significant meeting between the two teams in years. After a slow start to the night, Syracuse thoroughly dismantled St. John’s en route to a 76-59 victory. St. John’s, behind the energy of the “home” crowd (almost half of the fans in the Garden were wearing Orange), and a 3-0 start to Big East play, jumped out to an early 17-9 lead before the Orange zone and shooters took over.
Syracuse held St. John’s to 36.8% shooting for the game and forced 15 turnovers, although they did commit 20 themselves. However, in something that is becoming a trend with this team, the smart play and hot shooting of Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine carried the Orange to the win. Joseph scored 18 points on an array of 3 point shots, mid-range jumpers, and drives to the basket. After a slow start to the season, Joseph has really found his rhythm and has clearly become a leader for this young Orange team. Scoop Jardine hit a few timely shots and was the general for the Orange in busting the Red Storm’s press. Additionally, Brandon Triche had another big night for the Orange, scoring 15 huge points, handing out four dimes, and maybe most importantly, committing no turnovers.
There were a couple areas where Syracuse was again exposed as a potential weakness; again, down low. Rick Jackson again had his solid double-double game, but the Orange again got no offensive production from the paint besides Jackson. Against teams like Pittsburgh, this makes me very nervous. A coach and team as smart as Jamie Dixon and Pitt will surely notice this and work to exploit it. The thing working for the Orange is their ability to reel off 10-0 runs in a matter of minutes, caused by swarming defense and great shooters. If they’re able to do this, teams are likely to look for quick 3 point shots or long jumpers against the zone, an offensive strategy Syracuse is designed to beat.
After moving to 17-0 and passing every early test, the schedule really begins to heat up for the Orange. Games against the Big East heavyweights are looming, and after spending half a season priming their team by beating up on mostly inferior opponents, it’s time to really see where this team stacks up against the rest of the best basketball conference in the country.
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Written by Curt Bell