Storm finding success vs. Syracuse zone
St. John’s has finally figured out a zone and holds a 37-32 halftime lead over Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. The Orange started hot, shooting 60 percent in the first eight minutes, but have cooled down offensively and looked soft on the other end. Justin Brownlee leads all scorers with 11 points.
How St. John’s closes it out: Keep attacking the zone. Whether it’s been Dwight Hardy or Malik Stith, the Johnnies have driven down the heart of the zone and kicked either to Brownlee or Justin Burrell for easy buckets. They’ve also found another way to beat the zone, which flustered them into shooting 37 percent in a January loss, by straight up beating it down court. If you can’t set up the zone, it can’t beat you.
How Syracuse comes back: Feed Rick Jackson. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year had all four of his points in the early going. St. John’s backcourt pressure has forced four turnovers from point guard Scoop Jardine and created easy-to-intercept cross-court passes. The Johnnies depth has disrupted the flow of Syracuse’s half-court set, as fresh legs have hounded Syracuse guards as soon as they cross halfcourt. The defense has been overly aggressive at times, leading to 11 fouls, but it’s an entirely brilliant strategy considering St. John’s has the bodies to pull it off and SU is the worst free-throw shooting team in the conference. The Orange have been more effective with freshman Dion Waiters in the game, as he has eight points to pace the third-seed. Fab Melo was surprisingly solid early, scoring six points and drawing two charging calls.