Syracuse and St. John’s will revive an old Big East rivalry on Tuesday when they square off in the Empire Classic final in New York.
The two New York schools will play at Barclays Center for the second consecutive night. Syracuse beat Richmond 74-71 in overtime in Monday’s first semifinal game, and St. John’s followed that up by outlasting Temple 78-72.
The Orange (3-1) received a career-high 31 points from Joseph Girard on 12-of-24 shooting. Benny Williams made a crucial steal with five seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and freshmen Chris Bell and Judah Mintz made back-to-back jumpers in the final 2:03 that put them ahead for good.
Longtime coach Jim Boeheim was less pleased that Syracuse’s defense allowed Richmond to make 13 3-pointers in 31 attempts (41.9 percent).
“I think the good news is, we needed to get a stop at the end of regulation and we got it, and then the overtime, two freshmen made the first two buckets (of the game-ending run),” Boeheim said.
St. John’s (5-0) fell in a 25-12 hole to Temple during the first half before its shooters warmed up. Montez Mathis scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead the Red Storm.
Joel Soriano added 15 points and 12 rebounds to post his fourth double-double in five games. Andre Curbelo scored five of his 13 points late in the second half, bringing the Red Storm back from down 72-70 with a three-point play and a driving layup on consecutive possessions.
St. John’s coach Mike Anderson underscored the excitement of his program facing Syracuse, which it hasn’t done since 2016.
“It’s a championship game. We’re gonna turn this into a championship game,” Anderson told reporters. “It’s an in-state school, we’re trying to win games (and) it should be a great atmosphere.”
Officially, Syracuse owns a 52-42 edge in the all-time series with St. John’s. The Red Storm won the last three meetings, though, including a 93-60 beatdown on Dec. 21, 2016.
–Field Level Media