St. John’s may be in New York, but the city still belongs to Syracuse.
Kris Joseph scored 15 points, and Rick Jackson added 12 points and 10 rebounds as Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 Big East) routed St. John’s, 76-59, at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
“We call this our home court,” Joseph said. “It’s (St. John’s) homecourt, but we play our best basketball here. Whether it’s the [Carrier] Dome or here, we feel like we’re at home.”
The game had been billed as a battle of teams vying for New York’s attention.
Syracuse came in undefeated but had stumbled recently in a sloppy win over Seton Hall. Meanwhile, St. John’s (10-5, 3-2) has had a renaissance this season, winning its first three games of Big East play, the first time that’s happened in 11 years.
The Red Storm raced out to a 17-9 lead, fueled by SU’s sloppy offense, which finished with 22 turnovers. Many of those turnovers came in the early going, with St. John’s employing full-court pressure.
“We made more turnovers than we normally do,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’ve been good with the ball, but they were pressuring and trapping.”
After Justin Brownlee (13 points) converted a layup, the St. John’s crowd rose to its feet with thoughts of an upset in mind.
But Joseph quickly responded with a 3-pointer, and the Orange offense rallied for a a 16-1 run. Joseph would score seven points during that stretch.
Brandon Triche scored 15 points, and Scoop Jardine contributed 14 points and six assists.
“We got off to a horrendous offensive start,” Boeheim said. “Once we got some ball movement, Kris hit a couple shots, and Brandon got going.”
The Orange would score the final 10 points of the half to take a 35-24 advantage heading into intermission as chants of “Let’s go Orange!” filled the arena.
Syracuse gave the crowd more to cheer about in the second half.
SU relied on its vaunted 2-3 zone to stifle the Red Storm offense into 37 percent shooting from the floor and 2-of-12 shooting from downtown. The Orange held the Red Storm’s leading scorer, Dwight Hardy, to 12 points on 4-of-16 from the field.
“The key is just stopping guys,” Triche said. “We knew that St. John’s wasn’t going to shoot as many 3s. We backed off, and they weren’t able to get in the lane as much. That’s why we went up a lot of points.”
As for Syracuse, offense wasn’t a problem after the Orange’s slow start. SU shot 56 percent from the floor and 9-for-19 from distance. One of those nine was a 3-pointer from Dion Waiters that made it 59-38 with 9:26 left.
St. John’s would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
“We’re not always going to play well,” Jardine said. “But we can always give the effort. That’s what we did tonight.”
Brad Bierman contributed to this report.