Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Orangemen Returning to Madison Square Garden to face St. Johns

Now that the snow has stopped falling in New York City, we can focus our attention on the Big East Conference showdown between the Syracuse Orangemen and the St. Johns Red Storm. At this moment, it's very difficult to determine if it's a "road" game for the Orangemen, or a "home" game. At the very least, the good folks over at ESPN can call it a "neutral" court game without losing much sleep.

For the 114th time in Jim Boeheim's career, he will lead his team out into a sea of Orange at Madison Square Garden. While Syracuse fans are used to dominating the scene inside the Garden, they will meet a rejuvenated St. Johns basketball program, led by new head coach Steve Lavin.

Steve Lavin, who joins the Red Storm after working the broadcast booth since 2003, coached the UCLA Bruins from 1996-2003. He guided the Bruins to an overall 145-78 record in seven seasons and has St. Johns off to a 10-4 overall record, 3-1 in Big East play.

The Red Storm are coming off a 76-61 loss at #15 Notre Dame on Saturday. Five days prior St. Johns knocked off the #13 team in the nation at that time, the Georgetown Hoyas 61-58 at the Garden, the team's biggest win of the season. St. Johns has also won on the road in West Virginia (81-71) and at Providence (67-65).

Leading the charge for St. Johns is Dwight Hardy (6'2" 182 pounds) out of the Bronx. Hardy is averaging 16 points per game. After a somewhat slow start to the season, Dwight Hardy has scored over 20 points six out of his last eight games. Additionally, he had a season high 30 points in a loss at Fordham University on December 11th. He is also shooting 27.3% from 3-point range this season.

Justin Brownlee (6'7" 225 pounds) out of Tifton, GA has been coming up big for Red Storm of late as well. Averaging 14.6 points per game this season, Brownlee has averaged nearly 17 points in his past 5 games and almost 7 rebounds during that same span.

D.J. Kennedy (6'6" 213 pounds) from Pittsburgh, PA has been averaging 11.6 points per game and shooting 34.8% from behind the arc. Kennedy's offensive production has gone way down since Big East play has started, and has averaged just 7.6 points per game in his last 3 contests. In the win against West Virginia on the road, Kennedy had 17 points and 11 rebounds along with 6 assists.

Syracuse is coming off a very quiet offensive game against Seton Hall on January 8th. The Orangemen shot just 44.2% from the field on that day and were an abysmal 17 of 36 from the foul line. Syracuse also turned the ball over more than the Pirates and two Pirates (Pope and Robinson) out rebounded the entire Syracuse squad.

The lone bright spot for the Cuse was Brandon Triche's 6 minute shooting clinic in the second half that gave Syracuse the cushion they needed to hold on for the victory. Triche finished with 15 points on 4 of 5 shooting from 3-point range.

The Orangemen held onto their #4 ranking in the nation in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Top 25 polls this week. Syracuse is 16-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Big East. Syracuse has won 9 of their last 10 games against St. Johns, however this St. Johns team features ten experienced seniors and already has a win against a Top-25 Big East team under their belt. The Johnnies are currently sitting in 5th place in the conference.

Be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter, as we will be tweeting pictures and emotions live from the Garden throughout the game. As usual, check back with The Cuse Connection following the game for complete recap and analysis.

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