Jan. 23, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. - With the score tied at 57, Syracuse rookie Brittney Sykes possession of a errant inbound pass to a make a nearly impossible 50-foot buzzer-beater that gave the No. 22 Orange a three-point victory at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
St. John's had worked to erase a six-point deficit in the last 7:37 minutes of the game by using a two-minute run to go ahead by two, 53-5,1 with 4:22 remaining. With 1:44 remaining, St. John's had extended its lead to four, 57-53, after a jumper by Red Storm rookie guard Aliyyah Handford. Handford drew the foul but did not make the free throw. St. John's gained possession of the missed foul shot, but missed a jumper and the possession switched back to Syracuse on the rebound.
Syracuse' senior center Kayla Alexander was fouled twice in the last 1:23 and she went 4-for-4 from the foul line to tie the game at 57.
With 23 seconds left, St. John's (9-8, 3-2 BIG EAST) missed the jumper but forward Mary Nwachukwu grabbed the offensive board. With 2.8 seconds left, St. John's had possession An offensive rebound by the Red Storm gave the home team the chance to hold for the final shot, but after a timeout with 18.2 seconds left, a pass was deflected out of bounds off the Orange with 2.8 ticks left, setting up the improbable final play.
"Obviously this was a difficult game. Syracuse made a difficult shot from deep, but we gave away too many opportunities down the stretch," remarked head coach Joe Tartamella. "We let Syracuse touch the ball on the last possession, and they were able to throw it up. The one thing we talked about coming out of the timeout was to not throw the ball toward their basket. It hurt us, where they made a fairly incredible shot at the end of the game. We gave a great effort again, but did not execute in the key moments."
St. John's senior guard Shenneika Smith led all scorers' with 21 points, her sixth time scoring 20-points or more this season. Handford's 15 points were the seventh time in 10 games the rookie scored in double figures. Senior point guard Nadirah McKenith contributed 10 points, shooting 4-for-9 from the field. McKenith also tied her season-best game in assists with eight. With 524 assists, she is seven shy of breaking St. John's all-time career assists record.
Syracuse (16-2, 4-1 BIG EAST) had an early lead over St. John's, and even led by nine, 26-17 with 5:44 left in the half. A jumper by Smith in the paint then an improbable one-stroke 3-pointer by the Brooklyn-based senior with three seconds on the shot clock cut the Orange's lead to five, 29-24 with 3:48 left in the half.
Alexander hit a free throw with 48 seconds left on the clock in the period to send the teams into the locker room with Syracuse up 30-24.
In the second period, junior guard Keylantra Langley led off with a 3-pointer to cut the Orange lead to three, 30-27. Three minutes later a 5-0 run by the Red Storm tied the game at 33. Handford grabbed the ball off the floor on a offensive board for a put back and Smith scored on a layup off in transition for the tie.
Two-straight layups by Handford and two turnovers by Syracuse put St. John's up four, 37-33, with 13:40 left, however a 3-pointer by Sykes ended the Red Storm's 10-0 run.
Syracuse gained the advantage of the next five minutes to take a 6-0 lead with 7:37 left.
Despite the loss, St. John's held Syracuse to a season-low in scoring. Syracuse was averaging 77.7 points per game going into Wednesday. Syracuse's bench accounted for 21 points. Sykes led the Orange with 16 points, shooting 3-for-5 from 3-point land and 6-for-13 from the field.
Wednesday's game was also the third-annual field trip day. The Red Storm welcomed a season-high crowd of 3,661, mostly consisting of middle and elementary school students from area school districts. The attendance however, was affected by the New York City school bus driver strike which prevented many of the districts from attending.
Next for St. John's is the first of a two-game road swing. The Red Storm will travel to Louisville, Ky. to tip off against No. 13 Louisville on Sunday, Jan. 27 on ESPNU. Game time is slated for 1:30 p.m.