Syracuse welcomes long-time Big East rival St. Johns to the Carrier Dome on Sunday afternoon for the final time as conference foes.
The Orange snapped a two-game losing streak last Monday as they used their defense to stifle the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 63-47. Syracuse will look to build on that win against the Red Storm and to keep pace with the Marquette Golden Eagles who are half a game ahead in the standings after their victory against DePaul on Saturday.
They’ll have to do that without forward James Southerland, Syracuse’s best three-point shooter.
The senior has missed six straight games after being declared ineligible by the university over an academic issue. Southerland had his appeal heard by the school on Friday afternoon. No word yet on whether he will be reinstated.
While these two programs date back to the days of Jim Boeheim’s plaid jackets and Lou Carnesecca’s famed sweaters, the results have been heavily one-sided in Syracuse’s favor as of late.
The Orange have dominated the series for over a decade having won 11 of 12. The last time the Red Storm emerged victorious at the Carrier Dome dates all the way back to January 27, 1999.
Having won six of their last seven, including wins over Notre Dame and UConn, St. Johns comes into the game hot. Head coach Steve Lavin will rely on his two-headed monster of D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson to upset the Orange.
Harrison averages a team-high 18.5 points per contest but is much more than a scorer. The sophomore from Texas also grabs 4.6 rebounds per game, hands out just over two assists, and knocks down free throws at a clip of 78.6 percent.
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Helping out Harrison on the scoring end will be talented freshman JaKarr Sampson. The forward averages 14.5 points per game and hauls down a team-best 6.6 rebounds.
Sampson and Harrison are just two of the highly sought after recruits Coach Steve Lavin has convinced to come to the Big Apple. Recruiting for the Johnnies has certainly picked up on Lavin’s watch.
Anchoring the defense for St. Johns is center Chris Obekpa. Though he only scores fewer than four points each game, defense and rebounding are his calling cards.
The Nigerian freshman corrals 5.7 rebounds each time out, but patrolling the paint is what earns him his minutes. Obekpa swats away 4.4 shots per game and alters countless others. Syracuse will have to think twice about driving to the basket knowing Obekpa is looming.
Syracuse will certainly have its work cut out in order to extend its 36-game home winning streak, which is currently the longest in Division I.