SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Fifth-year seniors Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku made their final home game at Syracuse one to remember, combining for 35 points and the Orange beat St. John's 85-66 on Tuesday night in their first game in two decades as the No. 1 team in the nation.
Syracuse (28-2, 15-2 Big East) beat No. 9 Villanova 95-77 on Saturday night before an NCAA record on-campus crowd of 34,616 to move from No. 4 to the top spot on Monday. It was the first time the Orange were there since a six-week stint in 1989-90 and they apparently like the view.
They close the regular season on Saturday at Louisville looking to finish 9-0 on the road. Their only losses this season were at home to the Cardinals and Pittsburgh.
Onuaku finished with a season-high 21 points and had eight rebounds. Rautins had 14 points and seven assists. Wes Johnson had 13 points, four assists and four blocks and reserves Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine combined for 23 points.
D.J. Kennedy led St. John's (15-14, 5-12) with 19 points, while Paris Horne had 18.
St. John's dropped to 0-7 against ranked teams this season, but the Red Storm beat Louisville at home and Notre Dame on the road in consecutive games just over two weeks ago and kept pace with the Orange early.
Horne hit two 3-pointers and Kennedy hit another to move St. John's within 23-20 with 8:27 left. But the Red Storm lost theirs second-leading scorer and top outside threat midway through the first half when Dwight Hardy twisted a knee and was carried off the court by two teammates.
Syracuse finished the half on a 19-8 run, and Rautins led the way. After driving and dishing off to Onuaku for a layup, Rautins hit a 3 from the top of the key and set up Joseph with a perfect lob to boost the lead to 33-22 with 4:55 to go.
St. John's found some openings in the Syracuse zone at the outset as Anthony Mason Jr. and Justin Brownlee converted lobs from Malik Boothe. But the Orange began to extend their defense and the Red Storm struggled, getting called for a shot clock violation and backcourt violation on consecutive possessions
Syracuse extended its 42-28 halftime lead to as many as 16 points in the first 5 minutes of the second when Brandon Triche hit a pullup 3 in transition to make it 52-36 with 16:27 left.
After Horne hit his fourth 3 of the game to cut the margin to 11, Jardine negated it with a three-point play, and Onuaku's follow of a missed 3 by Rautins gave the Orange a 59-44 lead with 12:27 left.
Johnson's soaring slam dunk and four straight baskets by Onuaku — a slam off a pass from Johnson, a putback, and consecutive layups off feeds from Rautins and Jardine — had Syracuse up 72-54 with 7:31 remaining.