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Orange Crush: Red Storm falls to ‘Cuse

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But - ironically - this St. John's team isn't the same one it was less than a month ago, when it upset nationally ranked Louisville and Pittsburgh in consecutive games.And the Orange still have star guard Gerry McNamara. The Red Storm? It had no answer.The senior had 23 points and eight assists as Syracuse dominated the Red Storm, 75-60, Sunday at Madison Square Garden."We [were] a second late," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "They pick it up and they flip it to McNamara and he makes a three."Sounds like a typical sequence Sunday.The Johnnies, who have lost six straight, currently find themselves out of the Big East tournament picture with the loss - they are 13th in a conference that only sends 12 to the tourney.The Orange have struggled at times this season, as well, but looked great against the Storm.St. John's (10-12, 3-8) cut into a first-half lead, which was as high as eight, to get within 34-29 at halftime.But Syracuse (17-7, 5-5), behind McNamara's frenetic offense, was incorrigible in the second half. A 13-6 run right after the intermission was capped by a fast-break, alley-oop pass from McNamara to forward Terrence Roberts, who slammed it down emphatically.The dunk brought the announced crowd of 11,473 - which was heavy with Orange fans - to its feet, gave Syracuse a 47-35 lead (at that point, the Storm's largest deficit) and glued the home fans to their seats for the final 15:05. The Orange went on to lead by as many as 23."We didn't come out in the second half with the energy that we ended the first half with," Roberts said.The attendance, albeit rather inflated, was St. John's highest total all season - strangely enough, considering more than a foot of snow dumped down on the New York metropolitan area Sunday.As much as the wintry precipitation was falling, it seemed like Syracuse's shots were following suit - despite St. John's identity as a hard-nosed, defensive team.Coming in, the Storm was one of the top teams in the conference in both opponents' field goal percentage and scoring defense. But the team allowed 'Cuse to shoot 54.9 percent - mostly because the Johnnies were sloppy with the basketball (19 turnovers) and the Orange took advantage of constant fast-break opportunities in the second half.Junior Aaron Spears led St. John's with 15 points and junior Daryll Hill added 11. The Red Storm's forwards (junior Lamont Hamilton and freshman Anthony Mason Jr.) were a combined 0-of-8 from the field for seven points."We know we have five more games, so we can't dwell on this loss," Hamilton said. "We have to focus in. We are not desperate."Reach contributing writer Marc Raimondi by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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