The game’s attendance came as a huge surprise. As Mother Nature dumped over two feet of snow onto the New York metropolitan area Sunday, an attendance of 11,473 was listed to Madison Square Garden to watch Syracuse play St. John’s.
Maybe it was even more of a surprise that, even though the figure wasn’t really conducive to the number of people there, the Johnnies were the ones who didn’t show up.
Led by star guard Gerry McNamara’s 23 points and eight assists, Syracuse dominated the Red Storm, 75-60.
“If you allow people to play to their strengths, and we let Syracuse play to their strengths,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said, “then you know you are going to struggle.”
The Johnnies, who have lost six straight, currently find themselves out of the Big East Tournament picture with the loss – they are 13th in a conference that only sends 12 to the tourney.
“We are not desperate,” junior Lamont Hamilton said.
The Orange have struggled at times this season, as well, but looked great against the Storm.
St. John’s (10-12, 3-8) cut into a first-half lead, which was as high as eight, to get within 34-29 at halftime.
But Syracuse (17-7, 5-5), behind McNamara’s frenetic offense, was incorrigible in the second half. A 13-6 run right after the intermission was capped by a fast-break, alley-oop pass from McNamara to forward Terrence Roberts.
The dunk brought the crowd – which was heavy with Orange fans – to its feet, gave Syracuse a 47-35 lead (at that point, the Storm’s largest deficit) and glued the home fans to their seats for the final 15:05. The Orange went on to lead by as much as 23.
As much as the wintry precipitation was falling, it seemed like Syracuse’s shots were following suit – despite St. John’s identity as a hard-nosed, defensive team.
But the team allowed the ‘Cuse to shoot 54.9 percent – mostly because the Johnnies were sloppy with the basketball (19 turnovers) and the Orange took advantage of constant fast-break opportunities.
“We need to focus on defense,” junior Aaron Spears said. “That is the face of our team. To win games we have to play defense.”
Spears led St. John’s with 15 points and junior Daryll Hill added 11.
Hill will miss the rest of the season with the same left knee injury that caused him to miss five games earlier this season, Roberts announced Tuesday.
“He tried to do everything he could to be out there for us,” Roberts said, “but this is what he needs to do right now.”
Added Hill: “I don’t want to put my teammates in a situation where I am not at my best, and can’t execute the way I want to on defense or offense.
Hill, a preseason All-Big East selection, is averaging a team-leading 12.3 points per game. After missing four straight games with the knee injury between Dec. 27 and Jan. 8, he played in the next nine, averaging 11.1 points and 3.7 assists per outing.
RIGHT PLACE, WRIGHT TIME
Larry Wright, a senior out of Saginaw (Mich.) High School, made a verbal commitment to St. John’s last week. Wright, who is averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game, is a 6-foot-2 combo guard with a ton of athleticism and a strong shooting stroke.