JaKarr Sampson scored a game-high 21 points and St. John’s shot 41.8 percent from the field, but Syracuse shot 53.7 percent and drained 10 three-pointers to defeat the Red Storm, 77-58.
Sampson was 10-of-14 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds to lead St. John’s (15-9, 7-5). D’Angelo Harrison added 13 points and Phil Greene IV had 10, but St. John’s went just 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from long range and committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers.
St. John’s trailed for the entire first half, by as many as 15 points on two occasions, but rallied to open the second half. Harrison drained a pair of 3s, including an off-balance attempt as the shot clock expired, to pull St. John’s to within 43-34 with 16:05 remaining.
Syracuse pushed the lead back to 12 before Marc-Antoine Bourgault drained a 3-pointer as part of a 9-2 run as St. John’s whittled the deficit to just five points, 48-43, at the 11:45 mark.
St. John’s would get no closer than eight the rest of the way and Syracuse closed the game on an 11-2 run for the final margin.
St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin missed the game due to the overnight death of his 82-year-old father, Cap, leaving the reins to assistant coach Rico Hines. Lavin informed his coaching staff around 9 a.m. and then flew to New York City.
Earlier in the week, St. John’s defeated UConn in a matchup at the Garden, 71-65. Free-throw shooting hasn’t been a strong point for St. John ‘s this year – the team is last in the Big East at 63 percent from the charity stripe – but it sure saved them against the Huskies.
The Red Storm went 9-of-10 from the foul line in the final 1:47, and finished 24-of-31 from the line (77.4 percent).
“We shoot free throws before practice with the coaches and again after practice to simulate a game when we’re tired,” said JaKarr Sampson. “I’ve seen an improvement.”
The win was big for St. John’s at the time, which needed the victory to bounce back from a disappointing showing at Georgetown, where the team shot a season-low 31 percent from the field, ending a five-game winning streak.
“At this stage of the year you don’t grade victories in the Big East,” said Lavin. “Chalk it up. Move forward. Do the best you can to improve in areas that have to be addressed and get ready for the next game.”
St. John’s next heads to Louisville for a Valentine’s Day meeting at 9 p.m. on ESPN.