Sophomore guard Brandon Triche posted a game-best 22 points Thursday and freshman center Fab Melo tallied a collegiate-best 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting to help the No. 4-seeded Syracuse Orange beat No. 5 St. John's Red Storm, 79-73, in a 2011 Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at Madison Square Garden. The Orange (No. 11 in both college basketball polls) pushed their current winning streak to six games and advanced to the semifinals where they will play the No. 9 Connecticut Huskies, who upset No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers, 76-74, earlier on Thursday.
Syracuse (26-6), which trailed 37-32 at halftime, used a 13-4 run, capped by a Melo layup, to collect a 45-41 with 16:26 to play in the game. From there, St. John's (21-11) and SU battled back-and-forth until about two and half minutes to go. With the score tied at 68, Syracuse went on a 9-2 run, which included four points from Melo and Triche going 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, to take a 79-70 with 12 second remaining. Senior guard Dwight Hardy, who netted a team-best 22 points, made a last-second 3-pointer, but SU dribbled out the remaining time to hold on to their squatter's rights of MSG.
"He was the difference tonight without any question," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim of Melo after the game. "..We did just enough. It's tough when you have the double-bye, I've said that for years. It's tough to get going. But this is a good win for us to get this today."
Senior forward Rick Jackson had a tremendous second half to finish with a stat-stuffing performance of 10 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals and three assists. Junior forward Kris Joseph added 14 points and three blocks, while red-shirt senior Scoop Jardine chipped in with 10 points. Freshman forward C.J. Fair collected seven rebound off the bench, all on the offensive end.
St. John's (No. 17 in the AP poll/No. 18 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) suffered from the loss of senior guard D.J. Kennedy, who suffered a knee injury early in the first half and never returned. In his absence, senior forward Sean Evans compiled 11 points and 12 rebounds. Senior forward Justin Brownlee posted 15 points and seven rebounds, while freshman forward Paris Horne had 11 points.
The Johnnies advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Rutgers, 65-63, on Wednesday.