(Mike Lawrence/Sportsday Wire)
The St. John’s University Red Storm (7-3) kept their home record unblemished with an 84-72 win over its former Big East rival, the Syracuse Orange, before a large crowd of 13,473 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. The win was the third straight for the Johnnies.
St. John’s took an early lead of 7-2 at 17:31, but a 10-2 scoring run gave the Orange its biggest advantage, 12-9, of the contest. The Red Storm ended the final Syracuse lead with a 16-4 run and gave the home team a double digit advantage, 40-29, with less than one minute remaining in the first half.
It was rare for Syracuse’s veteran coach Jim Boeheim to be missing from the sidelines, but the coach has been suspended by the NCAA for nine games of which the contest in the Garden was the third. Despite the controversy regarding him, St. John’s first year coach, Chris Mullin praised him profusely. I have tremendous respect for Boeheim. His longevity and success says it all for him.”
The two teams played evenly in the second half until three minutes before the final buzzer. The Johnnies scored the final five points to win by 12, 84-72.
The St. John’s international freshmen stepped up by scoring 66 of the team’s 84 points. Frederico Mussini, the leading scorer of the Red Storm led the team with 17 points. After the contest, the native of Italy remarked, “This was the best win of my life.” His countrymen, Amar Alibegovic, scored 15 and led the Johnnies with nine boards. He explained his fine statistics, “The zone gave me the opportunity for offensive rebounds and to shoot the ball.”
Kasszoum Yakwe of Mali, in only his fourth game of the season, scored his career high of 15 and blocked two shots. One of the premier freshman centers, Yankuba Sima of Spain, scored nine, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.
The Johnnies were especially effective from the perimeter, netting 12 of 24 threes. They shot nearly 50 5 from the floor, 30 of 61, but held the Orange to only 35.8%, 24 of 67. Syracuse’s interim coach, Mike Hopkins, commented after the game, “The difference in the game today was the shooting.. We got some good looks, but just didn’t get them. We’ve got to get better shots off. We’ve been living and dying by the three.’ Syracuse only sunk 5 of 26 shots from beyond the arc.”
The next two St. John’s games will be played at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, December 18 against Incarnate Word and on December 20 against NJIT.