W2W4: St. John's vs. Syracuse

December, 14, 2013
12/14/13
3:30
PM ET
Here's what to watch for when St. John's (6-2) plays No. 2 Syracuse (9-0) on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff is at noon, and you can watch the game on Fox Sports 1.

OLD SCHOOL: St. John's and Syracuse are conference-mates no more, but the longtime rivals made a deal to face each other at least through 2014 -- at the Garden this year and at the Carrier Dome next year.

This will be the 88th meeting in the series, dating back to 1912. Syracuse holds a 50-37 advantage and has won the past eight matchups.

St. John's is 16-15 at home against Syracuse, but the Orange may have more fans than the Red Storm in the building Sunday. Syracuse has traditionally drawn very well at the Garden and has been a more successful program in recent years.

CARRY OVER? St. John's is coming off its best performance of the season -- a 104-58 rout of Fordham at the Garden last Saturday. Let's see if it can keep that momentum going against a much stronger opponent.

The Red Storm were 2-7 against Top 25 opponents last season. They haven't played a team this highly ranked since Feb. 10, 2012, when No. 2 Syracuse blew out St. John's 95-70 at the Garden.

Leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison did not hold back when discussing the importance of this game. “We’ve played in a lot of big-time games, but with the way that our team and their team are built this year, this is the biggest game of our careers," Harrison said Thursday.

Coach Steve Lavin tried to temper expectations. “We know it’s an important game, but at the end of the day, it’s about staying grounded in process and development," he said. "This matchup for our fans and team is a big game, but what I’m most focused on is continuing to make incremental progress so we are better positioned to play our best basketball come March.”

THE ORANGE: Syracuse is undefeated, coming off a 28-point win over Binghamton last weekend. The Orange won the Maui Invitational in late November, defeating No. 14 Baylor 74-67 in the championship game. But they've also had some surprising struggles against lesser opponents -- down six at halftime against Cornell at the Carrier Dome in their season opener and beating St. Francis (N.Y.) by only six at the Dome.

Four players average in double figures, led by 6-foot-8 senior forward C.J. Fair (17.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and sophomore guard Trevor Cooney (15.3 PPG, 48.4 percent on 3s). Sophomore forward Jerami Grant chips in 13.1 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game, and freshman guard Tyler Ennis adds 11.3 points and a team-high 4.9 assists a contest.

Syracuse is ranked eighth in the country in steals per game (10.7) and third in turnover margin (plus-7.6 per game).
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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