With a two-game slide in the past, Syracuse can confidently focus on extending the longest home winning streak in Division I by continuing its success against St. John's.
Looking for a 37th straight victory at the Carrier Dome, the ninth-ranked Orange try to extend seven-game overall and home winning streaks against the surging Red Storm on Sunday.
After losing at Villanova and Pittsburgh, Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East) rebounded with a 63-47 home win over No. 25 Notre Dame on Monday. The Orange shot 48.9 percent while holding the Fighting Irish to 34.6 from the field, including 6 of 20 from 3-point range.
"It definitely feels good to get a win after our last two losses," said freshman forward Jerami Grant, who had a season-high 14 points and six rebounds. "It definitely brought our confidence up."
With 6-foot-9, 288-pound freshman Dajuan Coleman out a month after knee surgery and 6-8 James Sutherland missing a sixth straight game due to an eligibility matter, the frontcourt of Grant, C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas combined for 44 points, six blocks and 21 rebounds. The Orange, second in the league with 40.7 boards per game, outrebounded an opponent for the first time in four games, 32-28.
Syracuse also held 6-9 Irish senior Jack Cooley to 10 points - five below his average entering the contest.
"Defense is going to take us far,'' said Christmas, who had 12 points, five boards and four blocks. "If we play defense, we'll win games even if our offense isn't there.''
That's the challenge that awaits St. John's (15-8, 7-2), which has won six of seven but is 1-13 in its last 14 versus the Orange. The Red Storm have been outscored by 14.9 points during their seven-game overall skid in the series and 18.4 in dropping seven in a row at the Carrier Dome.
"They are bigger, that zone (defense) causes a lot of problems for teams and they play well together," said St. John's freshman Jakarr Sampson, who averages 14.5 points and a team-leading 6.6 rebounds.
The biggest disadvantage for the Red Storm may be on the boards, as they rank last in the Big East with 40.5 rebounds allowed per contest.
"Our coach and coaching staff has been doing a good job of getting us ready for this game and getting us ready for a physical game because it's going to come down to rebounding," Sampson said. "We need to rebound because we are great stopping teams on defense but we need to come away with the ball after that stop."
Sampson had 18 points with six boards in a 71-65 win over Connecticut on Wednesday. St. John's blew a 15-point lead but used a late 9-0 run to regain control and bounce back from a 68-56 loss to Georgetown last Saturday.
"At this stage of the year you don't grade victories in the Big East,'' coach Steve Lavin said. "Chalk it up. Move forward.''
Despite its recent success, St. John's has shot 36.5 percent in the last three games. Sophomore D'Angelo Harrison ranks among the league leaders with 18.5 points per contest, but he's totaled 13 and shot 3 of 21 in the past two while dealing with a swollen finger.
Harrison scored a game-high 23 in a 95-70 home loss to Syracuse last Feb. 4.
Fair, who has 38 points in the last two games, scored 14 for the Orange in that contest.