St. John's loses 77-58 to No. 9 Orange on sad day
By JOHN KEKIS
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) The pregame meal was unlike any other for the St. John's Red Storm.
Coach Steve Lavin had a simple message: "Keep your head up. I'm with you." But he wasn't there to give it in person.
Six hours after Lavin left town after receiving word of the death of his 82-year-old father, the Red Storm started slowly against No. 9 Syracuse, rallied hard in the second half, then faded late in a 77-58 loss.
"It was just crazy. It was just quiet in the room," D'Angelo Harrison said. "It definitely hurt, but we had a game to play. Now we can talk to him and rally around him. It's hard on all of us because we all got a chance to meet him (Cap), so we know how he is."
Cap Lavin died overnight in San Francisco and a team assistant scrawled "Do It for Cap" on the blackboard in the locker room. Assistant coach Rico Hines stepped in to coach for Lavin, who informed the staff around 9 a.m. and then flew to New York.
"Obviously, he was really hurt," Hines said. "You can't prepare for losing a man that you love so much. I told coach we would be there for him. We'll go out and play the best that we can, play hard, play for Cap."
St. John's (15-9, 7-5) had won six of seven, the only loss coming last week at Georgetown, and was 2-2 against ranked teams this season.
The Red Storm matched Syracuse with 30 rebounds and 32 points in the paint, outscored the Orange 13-12 off turnovers and 14-7 on second-chance points, and even edged them 10-8 on the fast break.
Thanks in large part to James Southerland, who scored 13 points in his first appearance in seven games, the Syracuse bench outscored the Red Storm reserves 21-11 and helped spell the difference.
It was the 37th straight win in the Carrier Dome for the Orange (20-3, 8-2 Big East), extending the nation's longest active home streak in Division I. The win also gave coach Jim Boeheim his 35th season with 20 or more victories, extending the NCAA record he holds.
Freshman JaKarr Sampson had 21 points to lead St. John's, Harrison had 13 on 4-of-13 shooting, and Phil Greene 10. Chris Obekpa, second nationally with 101 blocks, finished with one block to go with seven points and five rebounds.
Southerland, a senior forward, missed the previous six games due to an eligibility issue regarding academics. He was restored to the lineup before the game and played 26 minutes, going 4 of 10 from the floor, 3 of 7 on 3-pointers.
C.J. Fair had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead Syracuse. Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points, eight assists and a career-high six steals, and Brandon Triche had 16 points and matched his career high with seven assists as the Orange backcourt excelled.
After trailing the entire first half, twice by 15 points, the Red Storm rallied early in the second. Harrison drained a pair of 3s in the opening minutes, pulling St. John's to 43-34 with an off-balance attempt from the top of the key as the shot clock buzzer sounded at 16:08.
"We came out tentative in the beginning, and that's understandable ... with our leader not being there," Hines said. "Their hearts were heavy. After halftime, they kind of let it all hang out. I thought we were going to push ahead."
After Southerland's slam dunk in transition, St. John's nearly did, going on a 9-2 run. A corner 3 by Marco Bourgault, his only make of the game, and two straight baskets in close by Obekpa pulled the Red Storm to 48-43 with 11:45 remaining.
"We had momentum. We felt good," Sampson said. "We lost the ball, turned it over, and then the momentum went back to them. They had the last run."
Fair halted the spurt with a baseline runner and Southerland's pretty behind-the-back feed to Triche for a dunk in transition got the Orange rolling again.
Southerland then hit two 3s from the top of the key in a 64-second span as the crowd roared and Syracuse had restored its 13-point halftime lead. St. John's never got closer than eight points in the final 8 minutes.
"What a tough way to come out and be a head coach for the first time, huh?" Hines said. "Losing Cap is a big blow. He was an ambassador of the game. He loved the game of basketball. My heart was heavy all day. It was a tough day."
The Orange hit 10 of 22 from behind the arc - Southerland and Carter-Williams each had three - and held the Red Storm to 5 of 22 from long range. Harrison was 2 of 8 from behind the arc and Bourgault 1 of 7.
"We knew before the game that he (Southerland) was going to play," Hines said. "We knew he would be there. He hit some big shots, some tough shots.
"I thought we just played (in the second half) and didn't think about everything. It's hard for all of us," Hines said. "It was extremely challenging, but I was up for the fight."
Updated February 10, 2013