For a new team under a new coach, St. John's had a different look to them as they played a masterful game against the Orange of Syracuse Sunday. Perhaps it was that air of the old Big East filling up of Madison Square Garden as the two old rivals squared off like the regular meeting this game was in years past. This is the second straight weekend that the Orange have squared off against a former Big East foe, as last Saturday made the trip down to Washington D.C. for a game against Georgetown. Much like last weekend the former Big East member lost on the road. This time to the Red Storm by a score of 84-72.
In a number of ways, this was one of the best games that St. John's has played this season, and a significant uptick in play especially coming off of their ugly win against Niagara four days ago. They were able to attack the Orange's zone defense with an inside out offensive flow.
Federico Mussini, once again, had a stellar game with a team-leading 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting, all five of his shots coming from three-point range. He also had three assists on the day as well. While Mussini was hot, it was everyone around St. John's leading scorer that bolstered his play and the overall play of the Red Storm. Kassoum Yakwe, Amir Alibegovic, and Durand Johnson were the main secondary scoring options for the Red Storm today as all three finished the day with 15 points a piece. In the case of Alibegovic and Yakwe, both were in constant rotation on and off the bench for the Red Storm today, and Alibegovic also finished the day one round short of a double-double game for the Johnnies. He was a the team's leading rebounder with nine on the day though.
As a team, the Red Storm shot 50% from all areas of the floor, 48% from three point range, and 60% from the foul line. They also won the battle on the boards, with a grand total of 49 rebounds to Syracuse's 34, but on the reverse side of the spectrum did have rather greasy hands today as the Red Storm committed 15 turnovers to the Orange's mere six. The turnovers were also thanks in part to Syracuse's ability to get at the ball as the Orange had 13 total steals.
For the Orange, they shot 36.4% from all areas of the floor, 19.2% from three point range, and 61.3% from the foul line. The three-point percentage is crucial to understanding Syracuse's short comings today on the offensive side of the ball, as this is a team that has an affinity for shooting from distance and can live and die by it. Today was a matter of death than life from three range. Their leading scorer on the floor was Michael Gbinije who had a game leading 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, oddly enough he was also their most effective three point shooter today as well. Malachi Richardson also had 15 points today, but also finished a rather amazing 0-of-11 from three point range today.
After coming off their narrow win over Niagara, Sunday was the outing that Chris Mullin needed his team to flex their muscles. This win also comes at an important junction in the season as the Johnnies are coming up on their final games in nonconference play. Each game now serves as a tune up before heading into Big East play at the end of the month.
On a final note, St. John's is still undefeated at home this season in both Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena. Home has truly been where the heart is for the Johnnies.