NEW YORK (AP) — There’s no surprise when you play Syracuse.
The Orange are going to play the same 2-3 zone they have used for years. Coach Jim Boeheim is going to have plenty of players who can score. And, they will win a lot of games.
This season, the fourth-ranked Orange have won them all and Boeheim’s formula worked again Wednesday night in a 76-59 victory over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
Kris Joseph scored 18 points to lead four Syracuse players in double figures and the zone hounded yet another team into a poor shooting night.
“The defense was good early because we really needed it,” Boeheim said, referring to a brutal offensive start by both teams. “I think our better guys have been good and that’s the key for us.”
The Orange (17-0, 4-0 Big East) are off to the second-best start in school history and they entered Wednesday as one of five unbeaten Division I teams.
They held the Red Storm (10-5, 3-2) to 36.8 percent shooting (21 of 57), just better than the 37.2 percent mark that leads the conference. The Orange came in second in points allowed (59.8) and were second in 3-point field goal defense (27.6). St. John’s was 2 of 12 from 3-point range.
The win was the 1,800th in school history, fifth on the all-time list in Division I, and 846 of them have been under Boeheim, who is fifth on the career list in Division I.
“It’s a cumulative effect over the course of a game as a result of Coach Boeheim having a great sense and feel for the zone to teach it and make changes in personnel,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “You know why Mike Krzyzewski used him as an assistant in international competition for our national team. They recruit well for his system and style and can plug players into roles. Because of the size and length there just aren’t many openings and even when there is an opening it closes so quickly because they move in concert so well. … This year is no different than other years because he tweaks it so well game to game, even timeout to timeout. He’s the master of the zone and tonight it was really effective.”
Brandon Triche had 15 points for Syracuse, which has won five straight and 11 of 12 against the Red Storm. Scoop Jardine added 14 points and six assists, his average that is second in the conference, and Rick Jackson had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Orange shot 57.4 percent (31 for 54) despite starting the game 3 for 11.
“Sometimes when the offense isn’t running like we want to someone has to get us something and I fortunately was the one to hit the shot to get that spark and from that we built momentum,” Joseph said.
Justin Brownlee had 13 points for St. John’s, which is 1-2 so far in its stretch of eight consecutive games against ranked opponents. The Red Storm beat Georgetown and lost to Notre Dame to start the roughest part of almost any schedule in the country.
“Tomorrow’s a new day in the Big East and you have to look to the next game,” St. John’s senior D.J. Kennedy said.
Syracuse closed the first half on a 10-0 run for a 35-24 lead. The Orange had that lead doubled within the opening 11 minutes of the second half. They did it by forcing St. John’s into taking some ill-advised shots and turning the ball over. The Red Storm had 16 turnovers in all.
Syracuse took its first 22-point lead on a 3-pointer by Dion Waiters that made it 59-37 with 9:25 to play. The Orange matched that lead three more times, the last at 67-45 with 4:38 left on a basket by Joseph.
“We missed a lot of shots due to their pressure,” St. John’s forward Justin Burrell said. “They have a way to frustrate you and we’re supposed to play through that.”
The game started ugly on the offensive end for both teams. St. John’s began 1 for 7 from the field, while the Orange were 3 for 13. Both teams came in averaging 11.2 turnovers per game and when the first half ended they both had 10.
St. John’s led 17-9 when Syracuse finally started connecting from the field. The Orange went on a 16-1 run with Joseph scoring seven points.
Dwight Hardy, who finished with 12 points, hit two 3s for the Red Storm — their only field goals over the final 8 minutes of the half — and Syracuse answered them with a 10-0 run to close the half that was capped by Jackson’s rebound basket at the buzzer.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)