Orange Crushed: St. John's Loses to Syracuse

The Orange come back in second half for a 79-73 victory

St. John's really needs to figure out a way to beat Syracuse at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm lost just twice at MSG while knocking off top opponent after top opponent, but both of those losses came to Jim Boeheim's bunch including Thursday's loss in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

The Orange came back from five points down at halftime to earn a 79-73 win and a Friday night date with Connecticut.

Brandon Triche hit some big threes for 'Cuse in the second half and Scoop Jardine was able to stay out of foul trouble to lead his team after missing much of the first half.

Their contributions were big, but may not have meant anything if not for the surprisingly active role played by Fab Melo. The often disappointing forward had 12 points, including a big bucket with 31 seconds to play, to help lead the Orange to the semis.

Funny, that wasn't the Syracuse guy named Melo that we expected to be a big factor at the Garden this season.

It's tempting to say that the loss to Seton Hall that cost the Johnnies a double bye played a role in a game that turned on Syracuse's ability to play better in the second half, but a lack of energy didn't really seem to be the Red Storm's problem.

Dwight Hardy, so bad on Wednesday, played very well in the final 20 minutes -- a key traveling call notwithstanding -- and the game see-sawed back and forth until the Orange finally put things away with less than a minute to play.

If you do want to point a finger, it would make more sense to assign some blame to the injury that cost the Johnnies D.J. Kennedy for the majority of the game.

Kennedy, who led the team in rebounds and steals this season, suffered a knee injury in the first half and needed to be helped off the floor. St. John's is deep and they didn't fold by any means, but the lack of Kennedy down the stretch definitely contributed to their ultimate demise.

The loss is hardly a crushing blow for St. John's.

Their ticket will still get punched come Sunday and they'll still get a favorable seed thanks to their splendid regular season.

Thursday's loss stings a bit, because it would have been a blast to see a Big East tournament weekend with the Johnnies playing a featured role, but there wasn't much about the loss to change your mind about this team's chances of making some noise once the NCAA Tournament gets underway. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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