GAME NOTES: Former Big East foes collide at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon, as the St. John's Red Storm play host to the second-ranked Syracuse Orange.
Steve Lavin's Red Storm are 6-2 on the young season and enter play on a bit of a roll, with wins in six of their last seven games. The lone loss during that span came to Penn State in overtime (89-82) in Brooklyn on Nov. 29, but the team has won two straight games since, including last weekend's 104-58 drubbing of Fordham.
Jim Boeheim's Orange now reside in the ACC, but have certainly looked the part of a national title contender once again, sporting a flawless 9-0 record to this point. Syracuse is one of just 14 unbeatens left in the nation. The team kept its winning ways going last weekend with a 93-65 rout of Binghamton.
This marks the 88th all-time meeting between these two long-time rivals. Syracuse holds a 50-37 series advantage thanks to wins in eight straight and 14 of the last 15 meetings.
An incredibly tough opponent to contend with, Syracuse gets it done at both ends of the court. The Orange hold a +14.8 scoring margin this season, averaging 77.7 ppg, while limiting foes to just 62.9. The scoring pool features four double-figure averages through nine games, starting with ACC Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Fair. The 6-foot-8 senior is shooting a steady .462 from the floor, while posting a team-high 17.8 ppg. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney is the team's resident sniper at .484 from long distance, and adds 15.3 ppg to the pot. Sophomore forward Jerami Grant (13.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is a valuable asset coming off the bench, while freshman guard Tyler Ennis (11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) has made an immediate impact in the backcourt.
The Orange won their 48th straight non-conference home game with a blasting of Binghamton last time out, as the 93 points represented a season-high. Fair led the team with 19 points, going 8-of-15 from the floor. Cooney poured in 17 points, Grant had 14 points and DaJuan Coleman posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
St. John's was red-hot in its lopsided win over Fordham, connecting on 17 straight shots in the first half and taking a 20-point lead into intermission (52-32). Orlando Sanchez led five players in double figures for the Red Storm, hitting 8-of-10 shots coming off the bench, finishing with a career-high 19 points. D'Angelo Harrison added 13 points to the cause, JaKarr Sampson and Sir'Dominic Pointer tacked on 12 each, while Phil Greene IV chipped in with 11.
The 104 points scored against the Rams was by far the largest output of the season for St. John's, which enters this contest netting 74.9 ppg on a solid .462 shooting clip. Harrison is shooting below 40 percent on the season (.395), but is putting up a hefty 18.9 ppg. Sampson is next in line at 12.4 ppg and is tops on the team in rebounding (6.9 rpg). Greene rounds out the top scoring threats at 10.4 ppg. The scoring pool dries up after that however, as the next best scoring option is Pointer, coming off the bench with 6.8 ppg.
The Red Storm will need to replicate their offensive performance from the Fordham game to end their current skid against the Orange. However, that is certainly easier said than done against a Syracuse squad that is currently brimming with confidence as the ACC slate approaches.