NEW YORK (AP) St. John’s did what it hadn’t been doing most of the season – shooting well and controlling the boards – and the Red Storm did something they rarely do – beat Syracuse.
First-year coach Chris Mullin said he wasn’t thinking of an 84-72 win at the start Sunday.
”I don’t really come in anticipating anything,” he said. ” You can’t because sometimes you draw everything up and by the time I get to my seat the ball’s in the stands.”
There weren’t many bad turnovers by the Red Storm this time, just a lot of made shots and key rebounds and a crowd of 13,473 at Madison Square Garden that was having a blast watching St. John’s defeat the Orange for a change.
The matchup was the first between the teams since Jan. 19, 1977, that Jim Boeheim was not coaching the Orange, a span of 63 games. This was the third of his nine-game suspension from the NCAA.
”I got to know him after my career and more after playing under him with USA Basketball and things like that,” Mullin said of his fellow Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer. ”His longevity and success speak for itself, but I’ve always enjoyed him off the court.”
Freshman Federico Mussini had 17 points and Amar Alibegovic, Durand Johnson and freshman Kassoum Yakwe all had 15 points for the Red Storm (7-3), who won their third straight and picked up a victory in a rivalry that has been favoring Syracuse in recent years.
The Orange had won nine of the previous 10 meetings, and they lead the overall series 51-39. St. John’s had not beaten Syracuse at the Garden since 2007.
”Playing here is unbelievable and with this crowd is something special. They give us more energy to do everything. It’s an amazing experience,” Mussini said. ”This was amazing. I think this was the best win of my life in the world’s most famous arena. Nothing better than this.”
Michael Gbinije had 21 points to lead Syracuse (7-3), which has lost three of four. The Orange did not score over the final 3:16 of the game as St. John’s got its last five points at the foul line.
Alibegovic had nine rebounds for St. John’s, which finished with a 51-36 advantage on the boards.
The Red Storm shot 30 of 61 from the field (49.2 percent), well above the 41 percent they came in averaging. St. John’s, which had been shooting 32.7 percent from 3-point range, went 12 of 24 on Sunday, with Mussini hitting five and Alibegovic and Johnson making three each.
Syracuse, which played its familiar 2-3 zone defense, shot 5 of 26 from 3-point range. Malachi Richardson was 4 of 20 from the field and missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts, and Tyler Roberson was 1 of 8 from the foul line.
”The difference in the game today was the shooting,” Syracuse associate head coach Mike Hopkins said. ”We got some really good looks. We couldn’t knock them down.”
Syracuse: The Orange are 1-2 under Hopkins as their interim coach.
St. John’s: The Red Storm entered the game second in the NCAA with 7.2 blocks per game. Yankuba Sima is third nationally with 3.7. St. John’s had five blocks and Sima had three.
PLAYERS IN CHARGE
Both coaches were players in the Big East. Hopkins suited up for the Orange and Mullin was a three-time conference player of the year at St. John’s. Syracuse has since moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference while St. John’s remained in the new 10-school, basketball-centric Big East.
Syracuse hosts Cornell on Saturday.
St. John’s hosts Incarnate Word on Friday.