“We now rejoin your regularly scheduled basketball season.” Those words were not actually spoken, but they may as well have been, as Fab Melo’s return to the Syracuse roster helped the team return to the form that built a 20-0 start to the season, this time routing St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York, 95-70, on Saturday afternoon. The win gives coach Jim Boeheim 879 in his career, tying him with Dean Smith for third in Division One history. That doubles as the high-water mark for most wins at one university.
The #2 Orange (23-1, 10-2 Big East) got their seventh consecutive win over the Red Storm (10-12, 4-7) through a balanced offense, as five players posted double figures in scoring. SU dominated the game inside, outscoring the hosts 52-20 in the paint and collecting 11 more rebounds than their opponents.
St. John’s scored the first five points of the day en route to a 7-2 lead. The Orange responded by racking up the next ten points of the game in barely more than two minutes to go up 12-7 before seven minutes were off the clock. The Red Storm got within a point, but six consecutive points jumpstarted an 18-6 burst by Syracuse, giving them a 30-17 lead. St. John’s got within eight points, but SU scored the final six of the half to take a 41-27 lead at intermission.
Syracuse went for its finishing move to start the second half, pouring in the first nine points of the session to trigger an 18-4 explosion. The run effectively ended the game with the Orange on top 59-31 with just over six minutes elapsed. The Red Storm chipped the margin down to 20 around the midpoint of the second half, but SU did not allow their lead to get any smaller, responding with back-to-back dunks six seconds apart to take a 70-46 lead. The squads traded scores from there, as the lead stayed within 21 and 26 points for the remainder of the game.
Fab Melo, C.J. Fair, and Dion Waiters each tied for team-high honors with 14 points. Melo’s total also set a personal best while Waiters scored ten of his points after the break. Michael Carter-Williams and Kris Joseph each rang up 13 points with Carter-Williams also setting a career high with his output.
Wednesday night, longtime rival #14 Georgetown comes calling at the Carrier Dome. The Hoyas (18-4, 8-3) have risen to second in the Big East, two games behind the Orange, on the strength of five wins in their last six contests.