01/12/2011 9:53 PM ET
Syracuse tops St. John's to stay unbeaten
After a hot start, Johnnies faltering against the Big East elite
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
At 17-0, Jim Boeheim has the Syracuse Orange off to the second best start of his illustrious career. (AP)

NEW YORK - After sprinting out of the gate at the beginning of the Big East season, St. John's is stumbling in the gauntlet.

No. 4 Syracuse came into its home away from home Wednesday night and humbled the Johnnies, 76-59, before 14,440 at Madison Square Garden. It was the 1,800th victory in Syracuse history, fifth on the all-time list.

Jim Boeheim has won 846 of those games, also fifth all-time.

The Orange (17-0, 4-0 Big East) remain unbeaten on the season and continue their second-best start under Boeheim. They began the 1999-2000 campaign 19-0.

Along with Pittsburgh and Villanova -- both of which won Wednesday night -- the Orange are one of just three undefeated teams remaining in the Big East.

After starting the Big East slate 3-0, including a win over No. 13 Georgetown, St. John's (10-5, 3-2) has now dropped two in a row.

"We've been beaten thoroughly against Notre Dame and Syracuse and the ranked teams are gonna keep coming," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. "It's how quickly we can make adjustments and elevate our level of play.

"If you elevate your level of play and your ability to execute, then at least you enhance the odds of having an opportunity coming down the stretch to get a win. And if you don't, then the tough times continue."

Lavin's club is in the midst of a brutal eight-game stretch against teams ranked in the Top 25. The run continues Sunday against No. 9 Notre Dame back at the Garden.

The Irish humbled the Johnnies, 76-61, Saturday night in Notre Dame.

After the Notre Dame game, St. John's visits No. 18 Louisville, hosts No. 25 Cincinnati, visits No. 22 Georgetown and caps it off by hosting No. 1 Duke Jan. 30 at the Garden.

St. John's used a variety of zones and presses early on that appeared to rattle the Orange and the Johnnies gave the home crowd some early excitement by taking a 15-7 lead.

But Syracuse began to take advantage of St. John's mistakes to run-and-gun. The Orange closed the half on a 26-7 spurt, running off 10 unanswered points to take a 35-24 lead into the break.

"From that point on we played very well offensively after that first six, seven minutes," Boeheim said. "We played very well on the offensive end."

Just as he did Saturday in a 61-56 victory at Seton Hall, sophomore guard Brandon Triche got hot late in the first half and early in the second. Triche hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second and Scoop Jardine added another to push the Syracuse lead to 50-33.

"You don't notice [Triche] for a stretch and then he steps up and hits three of the most important shots of the game, or play-makes," Lavin said.

Syracuse out-shot St. John's, 57 percent to 37 percent and out-rebounded the Johnnies, 34-25.

Lavin credited Syracuse's 2-3 zone for hurting St. John's.

"If you're starting to beat them from the 3, they can stretch that defense out, extend to get to shooters," he said. "If you're hurting them on the interior, they'll collapse it like an accordion and play it tighter."

Four Syracuse starters finished in double-figures.

Kris Joseph scored a game-high 18 points. Triche had 15 points, including 3 of 6 from deep. Jardine scored 14 and Rick Jackson posted 12 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and 11 rebounds.

"Our veteran guys have got to be there for us," Boeheim said. "Brandon has really stepped up. Rick has been very good for us all year. This was probably his worst game and it was still pretty good."

Dwight Hardy, St. John's leading scorer at 16 points per game, managed just 12 tonight on 4 of 16 shooting. Justin Brownlee, added 13 points on 5 of 11 from the field.

"We wanted to cheat toward him the most," Boeheim said of Hardy. "We didn't let him get going."

St. John's needs to get going by Sunday, or the losing streak will continue.

"I'm hoping by Sunday when we play Notre Dame we're at a point where we can give 40 minutes of good effort and execution and enhance our chances of winning an important ball game on our home court," Lavin said. "But you really don't know until you go through a full season, a full year in the Big East, with this particular team."

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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