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St. John’s set to play Syracuse in Big East Quarters

Following a dramatic controversial victory over Rutgers, the Johnnies find themselves in the Big East quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.

The Red Storm were victorious yesterday, 65-63, aided by three referee no-calls in the final seconds. It’s been in every newspaper, on all the radio talk-shows and on the news. It is unavoidable. But the Red Storm must put that game out of their minds to prepare for their next challenge, the #11 Syracuse Orange today at 2 p.m.

Earlier this season, the Orange handed St. John’s their only loss of the season at MSG.

“We’re excited to play them again and hopefully get some revenge,” said Dwight Hardy, who is expecting a battle. “At the same time we don’t want to get overexcited and not come ready to play. We just want to keep it in our minds, but at the time come and play St. John’s basketball.”

The main culprit in the loss was the Johnnies inability to handle Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone – something they have struggled with throughout the year against other teams, also. They shot just 37 percent from the field and had difficulty getting off shots.

“We were trying to force stuff against their zone,” said Hardy after yesterday’s game.

Coach Steve Lavin was pleased the Johnnies were able to get some practice against the zone late in the season.

“What I really felt was the blessing, even though we would have rather won the game, was from the Seton Hall experience it forced us to bring some of the zone offensive concepts out of the treasure chest or as I like to say bring the ornaments out of the attic,” said Lavin. “Dust them off get them ready for the postseason.”

“I think our ball movement has increased in the other games that we’ve seen zone,” said Hardy. “When you’re moving the ball like that it makes the defense run around and you get some open looks.”

Though this game is at MSG, one of the Johnnies home courts, many Syracuse fans live in the area and their fans travel well, often making the Garden their own. In that January 12 match-up, Syracuse fans outnumbered St. John’s fans, often leading Syracuse chants. But that was a different Red Storm team.

These teams first match-up came at a time when St. John’s were in the midst of losing five out of six and Syracuse was the number four team in the country and undefeated. A lot has changed since then, with the Johnnies ending the season on a run of eight wins in nine games – earning them #17 ranking.

The winner of this match-up will get the winner of the Pitt-UConn game in the tournaments semifinals. The Johnnies have already defeated each of those teams this season.

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