NEW YORK — Syracuse may have been playing St. John’s on Sunday afternoon, but through interim head coach Mike Hopkins’ eyes, his opponent resembled a team further out west.
The Red Storm went 12-24 from downtown in an 84-72 win over Syracuse on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“They were like Steph Curry shots,” Hopkins said.
For one afternoon, at least, the comparison to the best shooter for the NBA’s reigning champion Golden State Warriors wasn’t that far of a stretch, with Federico Mussini hitting 5 of his 7 attempts from beyond the arc. Several of them came from beyond NBA range.
St. John’s easily sliced through the Syracuse zone, threading passes into the short corner and the high post. When the Orange defense collapsed, the Red Storm made SU pay with a barrage of 3s.
Aside from Mussini, Durand Johnson and Amar Alibegovic each converted a triplet of 3-pointers.
“When teams make nine, 10 3s, that’s not a formula for success,” Hopkins said. “They spaced us out.”
The Red Storm isn’t a particularly good shooting team, collectively shooting 33 percent for the season, even after Sunday’s torrid performance.
That led the Orange to play off St. John’s to start the game.
“If we were to play them again, I’d still say I’d want them to take those shots,” Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney said. “It was just one of those days for them.”
St. John’s didn’t miss much from inside the arc, either. The Red Storm finished 30 for 61 from the field, and got strong performances from Kassoum Yakwe (15) and Ron Mvoulka (10).
Johnson (15), Alibegovic (15) and Mussini (17) topped the St. John’s scoring sheet, and each had a big basket when Syracuse cut the lead to seven multiple times in the second half.
“We’d make a play, get it down to a couple of seconds (on the shot clock), and they’d hit a 3. We’d get a couple of stops, go on a run, and they’d hit a 3,” Syracuse guard Malachi Richardson said. “Or, we’d miss a layup, and they hit a 3. Those 3s really hurt us today.”
On the other side, the Orange had one of its worst shooting performances from distance this season, finishing a ghastly 5 for 26 from 3-point land.
“We didn’t shoot well,” Cooney said. “It’s going to happen.”