Johnnies shoot their way past Syracuse, 84-72

St. John's shoots their way past Syracuse, 84-72. Full recap:

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- St. John's came into Sunday's matchup with the Syracuse Orange with something to prove. They did just that, cruising to an 84-72 victory over the Orange.

Early in the first half, Syracuse jumped out to a 14-11 lead. With 9:54 remaining in the first half, Amar Alibegovic had the play of the game for St. John’s. Yankuba Sima missed a jumper, which led to an offensive rebound and dunk by Alibegovic, which gave the Red Storm a 15-14 lead. The Orange never led after that, which ultimately resulted in a 12-point loss.

“The difference in the game today was shooting,” Syracuse interim head coach Mike Hopkins said. “We got some really goods, we couldn’t knock them down. St. John’s did a great job, they got really good shots. Those guys made ‘em.”

The Johnnies shot 49% from the field, 50% from 3-point range and 60% from the free throw line. Today was by far St. John’s best shooting performance of the season, which Malachi Richardson made clear during his post game interview.

“They hit a lot of deep 3’s, and a lot of 3’s at the end of the shot clock,” the freshman forward said. “They made shots today. I don’t think they’ve shot the ball like that all year, probably like a 30 or 38% team or whatever they are. But they shot 50% from the three, and you’re not going to beat too many teams like that; and you shouldn’t lose if you’re shooting that type of percentage.”

Despite shooting 20% on 4-of-20 from the field, Richardson finished with 15 points for the Orange, which was second highest on the team. He went 0-for-11 from 3-point range, but he said that doesn’t change his mentality when he’s out there. He also added five rebounds and four steals.

“I’ve always felt like I’m going to make the next shot,” he said. “The shots felt good; there was just a lid on the basket from the 3-point line today. We didn’t shoot the ball well as a team, and I think that’s going to happen. We just have to be a little bit more consistent with that.”

As a team, Syracuse struggled in all areas on the offensive end of the floor. Michael Gbinije was the only bright spot, finishing with 21 points and 7 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. He fouled out with less than two minutes remaining in the contest.

In the second half, SU’s shooting woes continued as they went 1-of-12 from 3-point range. St. John’s, on the other hand, went 7-for-11 from deep in the second half, hitting timely three after timely three.

Federico Mussini scored 17 points for St. John’s. After the game, he called today’s game the “best win of my life.” Amar Alibegovic finished with fifteen points, which were two points shy of his career-high, and nine rebounds. Durand Johnson also scored 15 points.

Coach Hopkins’ first three games as SU’s interim head coach haven’t gone as planned. He’s currently 1-2 with losses at the hands of Georgetown and St. John’s.

Despite giving up twelve 3-pointers, Tyler Lydon said the team trusts the system they run and had no ambition of switching out of the 2-3 zone.

“I think everyone on this team has bought into our system. We know the way we need to play defensive and the way we need to play offense,” the freshman said. “I think with that being said there’s no doubt in my mind that we could’ve pulled it out with our defense.”

Lydon finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes. Trevor Cooney's struggles continued, shooting 3-of-12 from the field. He finished with 11 points. He did, however, have five assists. 

Syracuse lost the battle of the boards, 51-36. Tyler Roberson had eight of those rebounds, but struggled all game long. It seemed as if the junior forward was trying to do too much, but when in reality he didn't do enough. 

Coach Hopkins did press periodically in the second half, but it often led to open St. John layups on the other end.

Syracuse fell to 7-3. They return to the court on Saturday against Cornell. Tip off is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3. 

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