Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) - In a critical Big East showdown the upset-
minded St. John's Red Storm will take aim at the ninth-ranked Syracuse Orange
when the two Empire State rivals meet up at the Carrier Dome on Sunday
With a 71-65 victory over Connecticut on Wednesday the Red Storm has been in
the win column in six of its last seven games. St. John's is 15-8 overall on
the season, while holding a 7-4 mark against Big East competition. That has
the Red Storm in a tie for fifth place in the league standings with No. 23
Pittsburgh. St. John's is a game over .500 in its seven true away tests (4-3).
The road won't get any easier for St. John's next as it visits No. 11
Louisville on Thursday.
Syracuse bounced back from a two-game slide with a 63-47 win at the Carrier
Dome against Notre Dame last Monday. Syracuse has been impossible to stop at
home this season with a 14-0 mark in front of the Orange faithful. Overall the
Orange is 19-3 for the season and 7-2 in league action. Syracuse is a half-
game behind Marquette for the top spot in the Big East standings. The Orange
hit the road to face Connecticut next.
These two charter members of the Big East have met 86 times previously.
Syracuse owns a 49-37 edge in the all-time series and has won seven straight
and 13 of the last 14 meetings.
Although St. John's managed to shoot at just a 33.3 percent rate against UConn
the Red Storm was able to hold on against the Huskies. The Red Storm shot 45.5
percent in the second half and knocked down 19-of-25 shots from the free-throw
line in the final 20 minutes.
In the win, JaKarr Sampson (14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) provided a game-high 18 points
to extend his streak of games in double figures to 10. Normally D'Angelo
Harrison (18.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) has been the top option for the Red Storm after
having scored in double figures in 20 games this season. Harrison is the
second best scorer in the Big East as well. The scoring options are limited
beyond those two especially with Jamal Branch (8.3 ppg,) sidelined with a
sprained left MCL. That is particularly bad news for St. John's which ranks
among the bottom five teams in the conference in points (68.4 pg), assists
(12.5 pg) and field goal percentage (.430). Luckily the Red Storm is a strong
defensive team especially around the rim. Led by conference-leading shot-
blocker Chris Obekpa (4.4 bpg), the Red Storm swat a national-best 7.8 shots
Led by 18 points from C.J. Fair and a strong defensive effort, Syracuse eased
by Notre Dame. The Orange held the Fighting Irish to 34.6 percent shooting in
the contest, knocking down 48.9 percent of their own shots. Syracuse also
scored 16 points off turnovers and had a 15-5 edge in points from the free-
Though the Orange are still the best scoring team in the Big East on paper
(75.4 ppg), the squad has lacked some punch with the extended absence of James
Southerland (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg), who is still out due to academic issues. The
Orange still have a wealth of talent on the floor every night. Brandon Triche
(14.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Big East assist leader Michael Carter-Williams (12.2
ppg, 8.5 apg) roam the perimeter though Triche has no problem putting the ball
on the floor and getting to the rim. Fair (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is a lanky
forward that scores and rebounds well and Rakeem Christmas (6.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg,
2.1 bpg) provides size on the interior. The frontcourt has been further hurt
by the absence of DaJuan Coleman (5.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg) who has been out since
Jan. 27 after undergoing left knee surgery.
The Sports Network