Syracuse and St. John's meet in Empire State showdown

The second-ranked Syracuse Orange square off with the St. John's Red Storm this afternoon in a Big East Conference clash from New York's famed Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse has won 22 of its first 23 games this season, and the former No. 1 team in the land is currently riding a modest two-game win streak following a 63-61 victory at home against West Virginia last Saturday. The Orange, who have been playing games at MSG since the 1938-39 campaign, are 5-1 in true road tilts this season, and a victory today would tie coach Jim Boeheim with the legendary Dean Smith for third place on the all-time Division I wins list.

St. John's hasn't had quite the season its Empire State rival has this year, but coach Steve Lavin's club has won two of its last three games to improve to 10-12 overall and 4-6 in conference. The Red Storm's latest triumph occurred on Wednesday night at DePaul, 87-81, and Syracuse represents the ninth ranked opponent St. John's has faced this season. The Storm lost the first eight games, but did manage to knock off five foes that were at one time ranked at Madison Square Garden last season.

Syracuse owns a 48-37 lead in the all-time series with St. John's, and the Orange won a pair of meetings last season, including a 79-73 victory in the quarterfinal round of the 2011 Big East Conference Tournament at The Garden.

Solid defense and timely shooting were the keys to Syracuse slipping past West Virginia last weekend. Despite only putting two players in double figures, the Orange shot 46.0 percent from the field and converted 13-of-17 free throws against the Mountaineers, who committed 17 turnovers and hit only 40.7 percent of their total shots. SU missed 80 percent of its three-point attempts (4- of-20), but scored 22 points off WVU miscues, and outscored the visitors in the paint, 32-22. Brandon Triche netted a team-high 18 points, while Kris Joseph finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for a Syracuse club that has appeared somewhat shell-shocked following its initial loss of the season at Notre Dame on January 21. Still, the team is averaging 77.4 ppg while allowing just 60.3 ppg, and the Orange shoot nearly 48 percent from the floor while yielding just a 38.4 percent success rate to the opposition. Joseph continues to pace the club with his 13.7 ppg, while Dion Waiters (12.3 ppg) and Triche (10.2 ppg) have been highly productive when called upon as well.

Freshman D'Angelo Harrison nailed seven three-pointers en route to a career- high 29 points, as he helped power St. John's past DePaul earlier this week. Support came from God'sgift Achiuwa, who added 15 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting effort, while Phil Greene finished in double figures for the fourth time in the past five games with 14 points, and Amir Garrett chipped in with a career-high 12 points. The Red Storm hit half of their 62 field goal attempts, claimed a 37-29 rebounding advantage, an 18-6 edge in points from the foul line and scored 25 points off 18 Blue Demon turnovers. Harrison and Moe Harkless sit atop St. John's scoring list for the season, with the former averaging 16.4 ppg and the latter right behind him with 16.3 ppg. Harrison needs to be more selective with his shot (.384), while Harkless is the team's leading rebounder (8.7 rpg). As a team, the Red Storm puts up 67.6 ppg, but permits 68.9 ppg. The last game not withstanding, the club has been horrific from long range this year, connecting on a meager 26.2 percent of its three- point attempts.