Q&A with Red Storm beat writer Jon Perez of The Torch

first_imgNo. 2 Syracuse travels to Madison Square Garden to face St. John’s on Sunday at noon. The Red Storm has advanced from Big East bottom-dweller to NCAA Tournament hopeful in Steve Lavin’s fourth season as head coach.The Daily Orange caught up with Jon Perez, sports editor at The Torch, to talk about St. John’s and the challenges the Red Storm presents for Syracuse.The Daily Orange: Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim thinks St. John’s is a tournament team this year. The Red Storm is clearly improved from last season, but who or what has been the biggest difference thus far?Jon Perez: The biggest thing that has benefited to the success of the Red Storm is their depth. St. John’s is now three-deep at every position and it helps key players like D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson stay out of foul trouble down the stretch of close ball games and keep their legs fresh.The D.O.: Does the team appear to be treating Sunday’s game as a rivalry game? How much has SU’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference seemed to deflate that rivalry?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJ.P.: A couple of players have said that this is the biggest game they’ve played in their careers. I’m not sure that they are treating it as a rivalry but more of a chance to show the nation that they can hang with the big boys in the orange. However for the fans, I don’t know what it’s like up north but it’s not hard to get under the skin of Red Storm fans. The whole battle of “New York’s Team” will always ratchet up energy for the fans that still do see Syracuse as a rival.The D.O.: D’Angelo Harrison has become a more potent scorer. What has been his biggest improvement?J.P.: I’d hate to break it to you, but D’Angelo Harrison has always been this good. He’s a natural scorer that needs a complimentary piece to support him. Harrison has been more consistent on his mid-range game but can also drive the lane and get to the line where sometimes he can be automatic.The D.O.: St. John’s is fifth in the country in field-goal percentage defense. What do you credit that success to?J.P.: St. John’s isn’t throwing out a three-guard lineup as much as they’ve done in the past. They have two defense-first players in Chris Obekpa and Sir’Dominic Pointer who can frustrate any opposing ball handler. There are even players with a scoring mentality that have been contributing on the defensive end as well; Harrison and Sampson have also been getting in on the act of frustrating their ball handlers.The D.O.: On an individual level, what makes Chris Obekpa such a good shot-blocker?J.P.: His teammates help him out a lot. Players like Orlando Sanchez, Sir’Dominic Pointer and JaKarr Sampson force a lot of defenders to rush their shot and out of nowhere comes Obekpa. He also finds a way to not draw a lot of contact with players driving the paint and that keeps him out of foul trouble early on in games. Comments Published on December 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm Contact Stephen: sebail01@syr.edu | @Stephen_Bailey1 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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