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Syracuse ends St. John’s Big East run

Entering this season the ten St. John’s seniors had never beaten Villanova, Pitt, Marquette, Duke and Syracuse. During this resurgent season, the Red Storm was able to knock off the first four, losing only to the Orange.
Today, they failed at their (most likely) last chance to defeat Syracuse.
For the second time this season # 11 Syracuse (26-6) came into the Garden and beat St. John’s (21-11), 79-73 in the Big East quarterfinals. Leading up to the game, Red Storm players referred to this as a revenge game.
It was also the second time Syracuse fans were able to control the crowd often filling the arena with chants of “Let’s go Orange!”
A back-and-forth final minute saw Syracuse make the plays Rutgers was unable to in the first round, going on a 7-0 run in the last 60 seconds sealing the victory.
Trailing 14-5 following the loss of D.J. Kennedy to a knee injury only six minutes into the game the Johnnies could have allowed the game to slip away.
The fact that they were able to “counterpunch” showed the “character and resiliency” of the team, said Coach Steve Lavin.
Led by Dwight Hardy’s 22 points and Sean Evans double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) St. John’s charged back riding a 17-6 run to take the lead.
From that point, there were seven lead changes and the game was never further than seven points until the final minute. But the Johnnies were not able to overcome the loss of Kennedy or Syracuse’s ten blocks and 13 steals.
Syracuse now faces UConn who defeated Pitt in the noon game on a buzzer-beating jumper by Kemba Walker. The semifinal match-up takes place tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Garden.
St. John’s is now left to deal with the loss of their leading rebounder for what could be the remainder of the season. Without any definitive information on the knee Lavin referred to it as a serious knee injury.
“It’s difficult to lose a guy like that,” said Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim, who faced a similar situation last year losing key player, Arinze Onuaku, for the rest of the year during the Big East tournament.
Lavin spoke after yesterday’s game of the importance of Kennedy to the team.
“The strength of D.J. Kennedy is his versatility,” he said. “He can help us at both ends of the floor, influence a game both offensively and defensively, so it gives our coaching staff some flexibility.”
One person cannot replace him, so the burden will fall on the collective shoulders of the team.
“Everybody has to be ready to play,” said Evans. “There’s going to be a lot of players combined to do what D.J. does.”
“We just have to rally together,” Hardy said. “Play harder and people are just going to have to step up.”
St. John’s was not able to become the first Johnnies team since 2000 to win the Big East tournament, but they will hear their names called on Sunday after a nine-year tournament absence. But after the game, the loss to Syracuse and never beating them was still on their mind.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them again,” said Evans.

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