Riding the confidence of last week's stunning 63-45 win over then-No. 17 North Carolina State in the Dreyfus Holiday Festival final, St. John's hung with mighty Syracuse for most of the first half. The Red Storm led 26-25 with 5:07 left in the first half before finally succumbing to the Big East preseason favorite.
"I think my guys are dissatisfied, they should be dissatisfied. Don't sit back and say, 'Well we played a good game.' The goal is to win," Roberts said. "They should expect to play hard every time out. The wins and losses will take care of themselves."
The same grit and passion the Red Storm displayed in the Wolfpack whooping was present against Syracuse. Anxious to prove the NC State game wasn't a fluke, St. John's went toe-to-toe with the Orange and attacked its vaunted 2-3 zone with ferocity.
Former Cardozo standout Ryan Williams scored all 7 of his points in the first half on 3-of-3 shooting. The junior college transfer threw down a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Eugene Lawrence and buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Red Storm a 24-22 lead with 7:02 left in the first half.
But Syracuse (14-1, 1-0) buckled down defensively in the final five minutes of the first half and Hakim Warrick scored 5 points during a 12-2 run that put Syracuse ahead 37-28 at the break. Warrick, who scored a variety of ways, finished with 22 points and 6 rebounds.
Gerry McNamara had 19 points and was 5-of-11 from 3-point range, including a huge trifecta from the top of the key to cap a 10-0 run and put the 'Cuse in front 63-45 with 8:07 left in the second half.
Former St. Raymond's star Louie McCroskey added 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists but the real savior for the Orange in the first half was guard Josh Pace, who scored 10 of his 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the first half.
"They're playing hard on defense," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of St. John's. "We just had a little more experience and just a little bit better offensive production tonight...The supposedly weaker teams in the league turned out not so weak and a couple of teams people thought not that much about are playing very well."
Daryll Hill scored a game-high 23 points, but 11 came in the final 4:24 as the Orange took away his outside shot for much of the game and forced him to penetrate the lane where 7-foot Craig Forth was waiting. Lamont Hamilton added 20 points and helped the Red Storm hold a 31-28 rebounding edge before he fouled out late.
"We have to prove to other teams that we're good. We have to beat nationally ranked teams, NC State wasn't enough," said St. John's freshman guard Eugene Lawrence. "Certain people might think that's a fluke so we have to prove it every night."
St. John's (6-5, 0-1) takes to the road Saturday at 2 p.m. to face a West Virginia team coming off its first loss of the year, an embarrassing 84-46 loss to Villanova Wednesday night.
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2005 Community News Group
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