NEW YORK (AP)—Syracuse had a good night at both ends of the court against St. John’s. That meant the Orange were the only highly ranked team from the Big East to have a good night.
Hakim Warrick scored 22 points and Gerry McNamara added 19 for No. 6 Syracuse, which had one of its best shooting games of the season in a 79-65 victory over the Red Storm on Wednesday night.
While the Orange (14-1) opened conference play with their 36th consecutive win over an intrastate opponent, No. 10 Connecticut and No. 16 Pittsburgh both lost Wednesday night.
“You know going into every game this season that it’s going to be tough in this league,” McNamara said. “It’s important to get off on the right foot, and you can’t do better than a road win.”
Syracuse has yet to play a game out of New York state this season, the only loss coming to No. 7 Oklahoma State at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic. Next up is Seton Hall at home on Saturday.
“This league is a very good league and you better be ready every night,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “Look at tonight. There could be a lot of nights like this during the season.”
The Big East’s two other ranked teams split. No. 25 Boston College won at Connecticut, while No. 21 West Virginia lost at Villanova. Pittsburgh lost at home to Georgetown.
Daryll Hill had 23 points and Lamont Hamilton added 20 for the Red Storm (6-5), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. They were coming off a 63-45 win over then-No. 17 North Carolina State in the finals of the Holiday Festival.
St. John’s has already matched last season’s victory total (6-21) and a win over Syracuse would have matched the total of league wins as the Red Storm went 1-15.
“I think we can compete against anybody,” first-year St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said. “We played the No. 6 team in the nation and we were competing and they knew that. We can learn from this game. I can take a loss when I know my team competed.”
Syracuse came in shooting 50.7 percent from the field, but hadn’t broken 50 percent in its last two games. The Orange were 30-for-53 (56.6 percent) against St. John’s, their fourth-best effort of the season.
Led by McNamara’s 5-for-11 shooting, the Orange were 9-for-18 from 3-point range, much better than the 32 percent mark from beyond the arc they had entering the game.
Syracuse’s defense was impressive as well, holding the Red Storm to one field goal over the final nine minutes of the first half in taking a 37-28 lead.
The Orange closed the half with a 12-2 run, scoring the first 10 points, including five by Warrick.
St. John’s went 1-for-8 from the field over the final nine minutes of the half and turned the ball over six times against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense. The Orange had 14 points in the first half off turnovers.
“The game turned at the end of the first half when we had a great defensive effort,” Boeheim said. “Our defense was good and we got the ball to the right places. I thought we were unselfish and moved the ball really well.”
The Red Storm got within 53-45 with 10:49 to play, but the Orange took advantage of the fourth foul against Hamilton to go on a 10-0 run that started and ended with a 3 by McNamara. The biggest lead was 72-50 with 5 minutes left on another 3 by McNamara.
“We know we’re going to have runs and we know we have to play go defense to get them,” McNamara said. “We have to know when to get guys the ball. We have to find the shooter and we did.”
And that means Warrick getting touches close to the basket for his favorite shot, a turnaround jumper.
“He is tough to guard,” Hamilton said of Warrick, a preseason All-America. “He is 6-foot-9 and long. It is pretty hard to guard that.”
Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca celebrated his 80th birthday Wednesday and received a long cheer and the traditional chant of “Loooou” from the fans. St. John’s renamed Alumni Hall on campus after him in November and a banner in his honor hangs from the roof at Madison Square Garden.
“He looks better than me, and I’m 20 years younger,” Boeheim said.