Greene slays Syracuse late; St. John's wins 69-57
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Phil Greene IV started it for St. John's, and he sure knew how to finish.
The senior scored 11 straight points in the closing minutes to break open a tight affair, hitting a trio of 3-pointers and a fast-break layup, and the Red Storm beat Syracuse 69-57 on Saturday in a contest that felt like bygone days between the two former Big East rivals.
''Just be aggressive, make something happen,'' said Greene, who opened the game with a 3-pointer after just 25 seconds. ''I haven't beaten these guys. A win here is a much bigger game. It's a big win for us.''
St. John's (6-1), which had lost nine straight in the series, snapped Syracuse's 55-game home nonconference winning streak.
''Just in the nick of time Phil broke loose,'' Red Storm coach Steve Lavin said. ''I'm proud of our kids. It was collective purpose our team played with. You couldn't ask for more from a group of kids.
''There are stretches when you don't make shots and you've got to stay with it. You have to have confidence in your ability to make plays or make shots. That helps us in tough environments like this. Our seniors are on a hard edge and want to go out with something special.''
Greene, 4 of 8 from long range, tied what had been a nip-and tuck affair at 55-55 with a 3 from the left wing with 4:04 left, hit again from the right corner to break the tie and followed with the layup off a turnover to send the Orange reeling. He finished his personal attack with a 3 from the wing in the final minute.
''In my head, I said I was shooting, regardless,'' Greene said. ''Once that happened, we got going. I felt if I was getting it, it was going in.''
The Orange (5-3) were coming off a 66-63 loss at No. 17 Michigan, a game they had a chance to win until freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough committed turnovers on consecutive possessions in the closing seconds with the Wolverines clinging to a one-point lead.
D'Angelo Harrison led St. John's with 24 points and Chris Obekpa had 16 rebounds and four blocks.
The game was won from the 3-point line and the foul line. St. John's hit 9 of 16 from behind the arc and 20 of 25 from the line, while Syracuse finished 3 of 22 from long range and 10 of 20 on free throws.
''I thought the whole game we struggled to score,'' Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ''It's very difficult against good teams. We got a lot of good looks and didn't make them. You can't win if you don't make shots in those situations.''
Rakeem Christmas had 15 points and 15 rebounds for his second double-double of the season for the Orange, while McCullough and Michael Gbinije each scored 13. Gbinije made his first career start.
The game had a feel like the old Big East and briefly turned ugly with 6:29 left when McCullough stole the ball on a bad pass in the lane by Rysheed Jordan and was intentionally fouled at the other end by Jordan as he was about to score. A scrum under the net was quickly defused and after a flagrant foul was called, McCullough sank 1 of 2 free throws to give Syracuse a 54-52 lead.
That's when the Red Storm responded, closing with a riveting 16-3 spurt after having squandered an eight-point lead early in the half.
''They challenged us and we stepped up to the challenge,'' Harrison said. ''This is a big one for us, a big motivator.''
STAT LINE: Syracuse lost despite a 32-12 scoring edge in the paint and a 13-8 margin on second-chance points. But the Orange shot 13.6 percent from long range as Trevor Cooney, the team's best deep shooter, finished 0 for 4, Patterson was 1 for 7 and Joseph 1 for 5. The Red Storm also held its own on the glass as Syracuse managed just two more rebounds despite a size advantage.
''We had good shooter awareness, which has been a weakness,'' Lavin said. ''This time we stayed on Cooney, and we dropped three to four defenders on Christmas. We were fortunate. What you give up is 22 3-point shots.''
Syracuse: The Orange hadn't lost to a nonconference foe since Cleveland State on Dec. 15, 2008 when Cedric Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer from beyond half court to snap a tie.
St. John's: The Red Storm's lone loss was last week at Madison Square Garden, 73-66 to current No. 9 Gonzaga in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. ... The Red Storm's last road win against Syracuse was a 75-70 victory in the Carrier Dome on Jan. 27, 1999.
St. John's vs. Fairleigh Dickinson on Wednesday.
Syracuse home against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 14.
Follow Kekis on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947