Melo lights up the Garden

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Another Melo rocked the Garden, only this time no one saw him coming.

Syracuse unleashed its freshman center Fab Melo and the 7-footer was the difference in the Orange’s come-from-behind 79-73 win. Showcasing athletic moves on the baseline much like the Garden’s favorite NBA star Carmelo Anthony, this Melo scored a season-high 12 points, taking advantage of an undersized St. John’s front to lead Syracuse into Friday’s semifinal against Connecticut. The game went six overtimes the last time these two teams met in the Big East tournament.

St. John’s solved the 2-3 zone in the first half but never got into a rhythm after the break and turned the ball over 19 times. It was a serious breakdown in the backcourt for a team that leads the Big East in turnover margin. Justin Brownlee’s 15 points provided a complement inside to Dwight Hardy’s 22, although it just wasn’t enough to overcome the Orange’s powerful transition game that sparked the comeback right after the half. Of course, it could have been an entirely different outcome had D.J. Kennedy played more than just a few minutes before leaving the game with a leg injury.

Brandon Triche led Syracuse with 22 points, catching fire in the second half and feeding Rick Jackson late to answer a St. John’s run. Jackson didn’t score for the middle 25 minutes but fought for critical rebounds and putbacks down the stretch to finish with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Wonder if he was inspired by that snub for a spot on the first team All-Big East team that went to Hardy instead?

The Orange team that showed up at the Garden this morning leaves this afternoon with a renewed sense of confidence. Sure, they blew the doors off DePaul in their regular season finale, but the addition of Melo into the offense makes them a matchup nightmare in the NCAA tournament. Teams will now have to counter one of the most potent fast-breaks in the country as well as two tall trees who can both score and pass in the post.

Check tomorrow’s Metro for more St. John’s reaction and visit our “Lessons Learned” nightly recap on the Delay of Game blog to see why Jim Boeheim thought now was the right time to unleash his secret weapon.


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