It may be for the best that Syracuse left the Big East. For the second time this season, the Orange (7-3) dropped a game to a former conference rival, this time falling to St. John’s on the road, 84-72, on Sunday afternoon. In spite of returning to Madison Square Garden, a “home away from home”, SU lost for the third time in their last four outings.
The Red Storm (7-3) were too much for Syracuse on offense, hitting half of their 24 three-point shots. In comparison, the Orange were essentially punchless, connecting on only 35.8 percent of their field goals, including a measly 5-of-26 from three point range. St. John’s also owned the boards, posting a healthy 50-36 rebounding advantage. Those advantages more than offset 15 Red Storm turnovers, while SU only committed a half dozen miscues.
St. John’s controlled the opening minutes of action, but the veteran Syracuse backcourt combined for seven straight points to grab the lead for the first time. Michael Gbinije started the run with a deep three off the right wing. Trevor Cooney swished a pull-up jumper by the left elbow, then Gbinije capped the burst with a pretty lefty lay-in that gave the Orange a 12-9 lead with just under six minutes off the clock.
The Red Storm surged back, retaking the lead on a 13-3 run that gave them a seven-point cushion at the under-eight media timeout. SU regrouped during the break and scored the seven straight once more.
Tyler Lydon started the flurry with a pair of foul shots, then Gbinije scored in transition to make it a three-point game. Gbinije then erased that difference with a three-ball that knotted the score. After a St. John’s basket, Lydon buried a deep three from the top of the key to give Syracuse a 25-24 lead with just over five minutes left in the opening session.
The Red Storm again answered with a run, posting a 13-2 streak to take a ten-point lead with under 90 seconds in the half. A late three would stretch that margin to 11 points, but Gbinije scored in the waning seconds of the half to slice the St. John’s lead to 40-31 at halftime. Trevor Cooney could have taken a bigger bite out of that lead, but his three-point attempt after a Gbinije steal fell short.
Malachi Richardson knifed to the basket for two to open the second half, but the Red Storm quickly pushed their lead to a dozen points with barely a minute gone in the half.
That opening flurry would set the tone for the remainder of the game. For every SU score, St. John’s had an answer. The Orange would get within seven points on six separate occasions, but following the first five times, the Red Storm immediately replied with a score of their own.
The sixth time Syracuse drew within seven points came with just over three minutes to go. However, the Orange shot a collective 0-for-11 from that point on, leaving them unable to take advantage of the hosts not making a field goal in the game’s final 5:17.
Michael Gbinije led all scorers on the day, posting 14 first-half points en route to 21 overall to go with his three steals and three triples. Malachi Richardson had a woeful shooting day, finishing 4-of-20 from the field and missing all 11 of his three-pointers, but finished with 15 points (13 after the break) and four thefts. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Lydon each chipped in with 11 points. Cooney had three steals while Lydon gathered ten boards for a double-double.
Federico Mussini topped a balanced Red Storm attack with 17 points. Amar Alibegovic, Durand Johnson, and Kassoum Yakwe each added 15 points while Ron Mvouika helped the hosts’ cause with ten and Yankuba Sima dropped in nine.
SU will have plenty of time to go back to the drawing board, as their next game is Saturday when they host Cornell. The Big Red (5-4) will carry a two-game win streak into the Carrier Dome. Robert Hatter leads Cornell with a 19.6 point-per-game average ands shoots just under 44 percent from three-point range.