Unlike their last meeting, St. John's put up a good fight against the Syracuse Orange. Despite the injury to key guard/forward DJ Kennedy, the Red Storm held on up until the final minute of the ball game. Syracuse's Fab Melo was too much for the Johnnies to handle inside the paint. Although he was close to fouling out of the game, Melo was able to score the go-ahead basket, which was followed by a St. John's turnover that led to another score by Syracuse. After Dwight Hardy missed an open three-pointer and the Orange scored once again, the proverbial last nail had been hammered into St. John's coffin.
The loss of DJ Kennedy made a big impact on the Johnnies' ability to play in the paint. At the forward position, the Red Storm will normally have a four man rotation where Justin Burrell, Justin Brownlee, Sean Evans and Kennedy all substitute in for one another (Dwayne Polee Jr. occasionally substitutes but not enough to be considered a major player). Syracuse already had a size advantage over St. John's and because Kennedy's injury came six minutes into the game, head coach Steve Lavin had to compensate by having Brownlee in the game for 38 minutes, while Evans was in for 36 and Burrell played for 23 minutes. Depending on the severity of Kennedy's injury, this could mean trouble for St. John's down the line, as they will encounter teams with larger players in the paint.
On offense, more problems arose because of the mismatch. When St. John's took the ball into the paint, Syracuse would not shy away from the Red Storm players. In fact, Syracuse's players faced whoever entered the paint head on, and in most cases it was the Syracuse player who was the most successful. The Orange had 10 blocks against the Red Storm, four of them coming from forward Rick Jackson.
Not only were attempted shots swatted away, but St. John's gave the ball over way too much. By the end of the game, the Johnnies turned the ball over 19 times. Of these 19 turnovers, 13 were steals by Syracuse. Ball security has not been a major issue for St. John's this season but it definitely an area they should work on before the tournament, especially if they want to face top tier teams.
Although it was not the outcome that St. John's wanted, they will now have a plenty amount of time to make necessary adjustments as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament later this month. The severity of DJ Kennedy's injury has still not been announced and depending on how bad it is, Steve Lavin may have to make some drastic changes (hint: Dwayne Polee Jr. may play more).
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