NEW YORK -- A quick take on St. John's 79-73 loss to Syracuse on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden:
WHAT IT MEANS: St. John's, the No. 5 seed, falls to No 4 seed Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. The Red Storm also may have lost one of their top players for the rest of the season (see below). St. John's is now 21-11 on the season.
Syracuse improves to 26-6, and advances to the Big East semifinals. The Orange are the only team to beat St. John's at the Garden this season -- now they've done it twice.
THE SKINNY: St. John's fell behind early in this one, 12-5 with 14:25 left in the first half, when something far worse happened -- D.J. Kennedy twisted his right knee on a drive to the basket, and crumpled in pain. Kennedy immediately began shooing away teammates and shouting for the trainer -- never a good sign. Eventually, a couple of teammates helped him limp off the floor, and it was soon announced that he would not return to the game. (We have no further details on Kennedy as of yet.)
But the rest of Kennedy's teammates responded quite positively in the face of adversity, bouncing back to take a 37-32 lead at halftime. Justin Brownlee scored 11 points, and both Dwight Hardy and Sean Evans chipped in seven. The Red Storm took advantage of 12 first-half turnovers by the Orange, and could have been up even more, if not for shooting 5-for-11 from the foul line.
Syracuse responded early in the second half, turning a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead, 52-45. But St. John's answered with six straight, and it went back and forth from there. The game was tied at 68 with 2:25 remaining, and Syracuse simply made more plays in the final 2:25, repeatedly scoring in the paint -- including two critical buckets by freshman Fab Melo (yes, Fab Melo), who had a career-high 12 points.
STAR WATCH: Hardy had 22 points for the Red Storm, on 9-for-17 shooting from the field. Brandon Triche led the Orange with 22. Syracuse had five players in double figures, while St. John's had four.
NUMBER CRUNCH: St. John's battled admirably in this game after losing one of its key players less than six minutes in. But two areas the Johnnies hurt themselves in? Turnovers and free throw shooting. The Red Storm committed 18 TOs (10 in the second half) -- six more than their season average. And they shot just 15-for-24 from the foul line (62.5 percent).
WHAT'S NEXT: Syracuse will play No. 9 seed UConn on Friday evening at 7 p.m, for a spot in the Big East championship game.
St. John's will wait until Selection Sunday, to hear its name called for the first time since 2002.