Thanks to taking a 12-point lead in the first half, then finishing the game on a 10-3 run, #2 Syracuse survived a strong second half performance by St. John’s and pulled out a 68-63 win Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New York. The win pushed the Orange to a 10-0 start on the season and also gave head coach Jim Boeheim his 75th career win in the Garden.
The SU defense turned in a strong effort against the Red Storm (6-3), holding them to a 35.6 percent shooting day from the floor, including a 1-for-17 mark from beyond the arc. St John’s was able to rally in the second half, in large part by turning the ball over just twice in that session. It was not enough, though, as the Orange forced the Red Storm to miss their final ten shots from the floor during the final five minutes.
In the opening minutes of the game, the two squads traded field goals, first Syracuse, then the Red Storm. The Orange were first to get consecutive scores and went into the first media timeout with a 10-6 lead. After St. John’s scored the game’s next three points, SU got a pair of jump shots to nudge the margin to five points.
The Red Storm matched those two baskets, but Tyler Ennis hit a three and Rakeem Christmas followed a pair of free throws with a short jumper for Syracuse, pushing their lead to 21-13 and forcing a St. John’s timeout with just over nine minutes left in the half.
St. John’s came out of the timeout with the game’s next four points, but the Orange matched those scores to reinstate the eight-point margin. Those two scores also started a 12-4 burst in favor of SU, stretching their lead to 33-21 with just over two minutes on the clock.
Ennis posted the last six Syracuse points of the half at the charity stripe, matching the Red Storm effort before the break and keeping the Orange in control by a dozen at half, 39-27.
Syracuse held the hosts at bay for the first three minutes of the second half, maintaining their lead at 12. Six straight St. John’s points jumpstarted a 10-2 run, slicing the SU lead to 46-42.
After each side added a field goal, Jerami Grant made a nifty move and his three-point play pushed the Orange lead to 51-44 with just over 12 minutes on the clock. The Red Storm were undeterred and scored six of the game’s next eight points to crawl within 53-50 before the midpoint of the second half, then knocked down all three shots on a foul to knot the game with 9:16 to go.
A Grant free throw gave SU the slimmest of leads, but a Red Storm bank shot put them in front for the first time on the day. Grant replied, though, and Syracuse held a 56-55 edge at the under-eight media timeout.
A Red Storm free throw evened the score, then after a missed dunk by Ennis, a pair of shots from the line gave St. John’s a 58-56 lead. C.J. Fair calmly hit the tying baseline jumper on the next SU possession.
Ennis, however, left a long three short with a few seconds on the shot clock, then compounded the poor decision by fouling on a Red Storm fast break lay-in that put the hosts out in front again. The freshman point guard, however, got the two points back after being fouled on a drive, then sliced through the St. John’s defense for a finger roll that gave SU a 62-60 lead with four minutes left.
Fair added a short jumper for some breathing room, but got whistled for an offensive foul on a post-up on the following Orange possession. The Red Storm added a free throw to slice the SU lead to 64-61.
Fair quickly moved on from his mistake, hitting a mid-range jumper off a baseline cut that boosted the Syracuse lead to five and forced a St. John’s timeout with 90 seconds left. Following the stoppage in play, Michael Gbinije poked the ball loose on defense, then drew a foul with just under a minute on the clock.
Gbinije’s charity shot was off the heel of the rim, but the Red Storm could not take advantage, turning the ball over to Syracuse with 44.7 seconds on the clock. After a quick foul, Ennis knocked down a pair at the stripe to stretch the Orange lead to 68-61.
The Red Storm tried to score quickly, but Jerami Grant used both hands to emphatically stuff a dunk attempt, bringing the Orange faithful to their feet. The ball came to Fair, who was fouled, but could not make the front end of a one-and-one.
St. John’s made a pair of shots at the line to get within 68-63. Again Fair was fouled and this time missed both shots. The Red Storm, however, could climb no closer, allowing the Orange to escape with a win.
Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair paced the SU offense, each scoring 21 points. Ennis did most of his work in the opening half, scoring 15 points before the break, and knocked down all ten of his free throw attempts. Jerami Grant had 14 points and tied the game high of seven rebounds off the bench. Rakeem Christmas chipped in with eight points.
D’Angelo Harrison led St. John’s with 21 points. Rysheed Jordan (13) and Ja’Karr Sampson (12) also reached double figures in scoring for the Red Storm.
The Orange return to the Carrier Dome on Friday when they host High Point. The Panthers (3-5), who are in the Big South Conference, will face Morgan State on Wednesday prior to their trip to Syracuse. High Point is led by forwards John Brown and Allan Chaney, who combine to average nearly 35 points and over 17 rebounds a game.
The game will start at 7:00pm Eastern and will be available online at ESPN3.com.