Syracuse 77, St. John's 58

The SportsXchange

Syracuse, N.Y. -- History was already against the St. John's University Red Storm men's basketball team, which had lost 13 of its previous 14 games against Syracuse University.

Throw in James Southerland's emotional return for Syracuse and the fact that Red Storm coach Steve Lavin was 3,000 miles away, and the odds were stacked against St. John's Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.

C.J. Fair scored 17 points, Brandon Triche added 16 and Southerland 13 points as the trio combined for 46 points as the No. 9 Orange led from start to finish in a 77-58 romp over St. John's in a Big East Conference game before 27,169 fans, the second largest crowd of the season at the Dome.

Michael Carter-Williams added 17 points, eight assists and six steals for the Orange.

Southerland, who returned after missing six games because of an academic issue, scored 13 points in 26 minutes. He's Syracuse's best outside shooter and he ranked second on the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game when he was ruled ineligible Jan. 12.

Lavin missed the game because his father, Cap, died during the night and the coach traveled to California to be with his family. Cap Lavin, 82, a member of the University of San Francisco basketball Hall of Fame, had been under hospice care while battling several health issues.

St. John's assistant coach Rico Hines served as the head coach Sunday, with major contributions from the rest of the staff. Lavin missed most of last season while recovering from prostate cancer surgery.

St. John's also played without senior point guard Jamal Branch, who has missed the last two games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. While Branch's replacement, Phil Greene, leads the team in assists, he's a natural off-guard and the Red Storm has played better with Branch at the point.

In defeating St. John's for the eighth consecutive game, Syracuse improved to 20-3 and 8-2 in the Big East. The Orange is tied with Marquette for first place in the conference.

Syracuse also extended its Carrier Dome home winning streak to 37, the longest in the nation and a school record. The Orange has now recorded at least 20 wins for 16 consecutive seasons, and coach Jim Boeheim has guided the Orange to at least 20 wins in 35 of his 37 years.

The Red Storm, which had won six of its previous seven games, dropped to 15-9 overall and 7-5 in the Big East. St. John's dropped into seventh place in Big East behind Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown (7-3), Pittsburgh (8-4), Notre Dame (7-4) and Louisville (7-4).

Freshman forward JaKarr Sampson, the leading candidate for Big East Rookie of the Year, led the Red Storm with 21 points. St. John's sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison, who entered the game as the Big East's second-leading scorer (18.5 ppg), added 13.

Southerland was declared ineligible prior to Syracuse's game against Villanova Jan. 12. He had an appeal before a Syracuse University hearings panel on Friday, but the panel's decision was not announced until Sunday.

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper, Southerland's ineligibility was the result of an NCAA investigation into the Syracuse basketball program's academic records. Southerland's situation reportedly involves a term paper from the previous academic year.

Southerland had been practicing with the team, which went 4-2 without him after starting 15-1 with him. The Orange averaged 79.4 points per game before Southerland was ruled ineligible and 64.7 points per game with him on the sidelines.

Leading 10-8, Syracuse went on a 19-6 run to build a 29-14 advantage. Fair and Triche each hit a pair of 3-pointers and had 10 points in the first half, with Triche's 3-pointer at the end of the half giving the Orange a 37-24 lead at intermission.

Greene led the Red Storm with eight points in the first half.

The Red Storm used a 7-0 run ignited by Marc Bourgault's 3-pointer to slice the Orange's lead to five, 48-43, eight minutes into the second half. But Fair's basket and Triche's layup on a fast break increased Syracuse's lead to nine, 52-43. Southerland sank a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to boost the Orange's lead to 58-45.

Notes: Syracuse sophomore Carter-Williams, who leads the nation in assists per game (8.5), is a finalist for the 2013 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. An original list of 80 was recently trimmed to 12 by a nationally-based committee. ... St. John's freshman center Chris Obekpa had one blocked shot Sunday and leads the Big East with 102 blocks. He's looking to join Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson as the only freshmen to be named Big East's Defensive Player of the Year. ... Syracuse and St. John's are charter members of the Big East, and Syracuse holds a 33-19 edge in regular-season conference games. But the longtime rivals have met just five times in the Big East Tournament -- the fewest number of tournament meetings among the league's charter members (the Orange is 4-1). ... St. John's and Syracuse recently announced a home-and-home series for the next two seasons. The Orange will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
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