Syracuse hoops fall to St. John’s in second straight OT game
SU falls to St. John's in second straight OT game
BROOKLYN — In a New York state rivalry game that harkened back to the former Big East play, Syracuse and St. John’s battled on the hardwood in front of thousands of Orange and “Johnnies” fans Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
Despite the lackluster second-half and overtime shooting to close out the game, SU head coach Jim Boeheim was happy overall with the showing of his team, which is now 3-2 on the season.
“We came down here and played as well as we could have played for two days,” Boeheim said. “Obviously there were some mistakes … but I thought we played really well here in New York, and I think this will help our team win games. You want to win, but [I’m] really proud of the way they played.”
Freshman point guard Judah Mintz got the offense going for the Orange after Joseph Girard III was subbed out only five minutes into the game. Mintz attacked the basket early and often with a variety of athletic moves leading to layups or trips to the free throw line.
Mintz brought the house down with a break-away dunk at the 11-minute mark after intercepting a St. John’s pass along the perimeter.
After being called out by Coach Boeheim after Monday’s game, forward Benny Williams took his coach’s words to heart in the first half. The wing continued his scoring ways with nine points, but also brought down seven rebounds, already four more than his total against Richmond.
Girard was held scoreless in the first half with 0-for-5 shooting. St. John’s draped Syracuse’s leading scorer with its best defenders and had all five players on the floor focused on him at all times.
Despite no contributions from Girard who dropped a career-high 31 points on Monday, the Orange led 35-29 at halftime after an And-1 layup from Mintz seconds before the buzzer, bringing his total to 16 points.
Girard scored his first points of the game at the charity stripe with 17:27 left in the second half after being fouled on a long jump shot after curling around a pindown. It appeared at first that Red Storm guard Montez Mathis blocked the shot cleanly, but he was whistled for a personal foul.
Seeing the ball go through the net may have helped the senior guard find a rhythm because Girard knocked down his first field goal just a minute later. The smooth fastbreak pull-up jumpshot put ‘Cuse up 47-37, their first double-digit advantage since midway through the first half.
That would be it for the guard, however. Girard finished the game with just four points on 1-of-10 shooting.
“Joe was just not Joe tonight,” Coach Boeheim said. “He didn’t have it and he has to be better.”
The guard echoed those sentiments.
“It’s not fun losing, and it’s not fun to play bad in the loss,” Girard said. “I’m upset with how I played. I let my teammates down and coaches down and I’ve got to be better.”
Hima, a raw defensive prospect, racked up a few blocks (seven total) and putback dunks, but ultimately fell into foul trouble of his own after his fourth foul with 8:17 left. That brought Edwards back on the court.
Boeheim was happy with Hima’s performance, but wished that his longtime center Edwards hadn’t put the team in that position.
“Mounir [Hima] did a great job in the first half, but we don’t need him in there that long,” Coach Boeheim said. “I think Jesse [Edwards] has got to be better there.”
For Hima, the big man is trying to keep it simple.
“I think I’m good at blocking shots and rebounding,” Hima said. “I’m not trying to do stuff that I’m not good at.”
Boeheim envisions the next step for Hima to be offensively polished.
“He’s got a problem, he waits outside the lane when they throw him the ball and then he’s too far away to finish,” Coach Boeheim said. “He should’ve had six shots. He should’ve had six dunks. He’s just got to learn.”
A 9-0 run that stretched nearly four minutes from St. John’s put the Red Storm ahead, but a Williams putback layup with seven minutes on the clock stopped the bleeding for the Orange.
The Red Storm continued to score each trip down; however, the Orange weren’t able to get the tie until the 1:24 mark after a travel on Mathis and a sweet dish from Mintz to Edwards had the two schools knotted up at 65 points.
With Girard struggling, Coach Boeheim anticipated driving lanes opening up for teammates.
“Judah [Mintz] took advantage in the first half, but I think they did a better job on him in the second half,” Coach Boeheim said. “I think he probably was a little tired, too.”
Syracuse couldn’t take advantage of a Red Storm airball, but St. John’s returned the favor with an airball of their own. After advancing the ball up the court, Syracuse called a timeout.
Surprisingly, the Orange fed their big man Edwards who had found success on past possessions, hoping for one last trip to the well. But he was stuffed by opposing center Joel Soriano and was forced to kick it out to wing Symir Torrence.
Torrence, not known for his offensive prowess, was unable to convert on a baseline fadeaway as the clock expired and Syracuse headed to overtime for the second evening in a row.
Coach Boeheim acknowledged that the overtime periods got to his players, but didn’t deem it to be the deciding factor.
“We were a little tired, but we finished in regulation,” he said. “We were down four [points] at the end of regulation, and we got the two buckets and we got the two stops. They just played better in the overtime.”
“It’s obviously tough,” Girard said. “The teams that we played were tough, defensive teams. Anytime you play back-to-back nights it’s going to be tough, but you have to be ready for it.”
The extra period proved to be a back-and-forth affair early on, with neither team pulling away with a lead. But a pivotal moment came with 1:34 remaining when Girard stepped up to the line with one-and-one bonus free throws.
Girard had an uncharacteristic moment on Monday night when he shot just 1-for-3 on a trip to the charity stripe, but chalked it up to a mental error and not fatigue. The misses were ultimately inconsequential, but this trip wouldn’t be.
Girard missed his first and only free throw, and St John’s captured the momentum to stretch their lead to six points with 1:13 remaining. A Jesse Edwards layup did little to stop the Red Storm and a corner three pointer from St. John’s David Jones served as the nail on the coffin.
Syracuse headed home with their second loss of the season, 76-69.
After a disappointing finish in the Empire Classic, the Orange will head back to campus and host the Bryant Bulldogs on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We’ve just got to be better,” Girard said. “Yesterday was a good win for us, and we were hoping to get out of here with two wins, but unfortunately that didn’t happen and we’ve got to bounce back Saturday.”