An hour before the scheduled tip-off, St. John's was stuck in a snow-bound bus two miles from the Carrier Dome, where No. 23 Syracuse awaited.
But a little snow wasn't going to stand in the way of the Big East's hottest team.
"We wanted to walk to the game. We were anxious and excited, but Coach wouldn't let us," said Zendon Hamilton, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Red Storm to a 67-65 victory over Syracuse on Tuesday night.
"We were ready for them," added Felipe Lopez. "It would have been upsetting not to play. We would have played them outside, that's how ready we were to play."
With traffic snarled in a blinding snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow on Syracuse, St. John's didn't arrive at the Carrier Dome until 35 minutes before the scheduled start, causing a 35-minute delay. The Red Storm players were shuttled to the dome in four-wheel-drive vehicles and police cars.
"We couldn't get ourselves going and it was tough early in the game to do anything," Lopez said. "But eventually we did what we came here to do."
Despite their determination, St. John's still needed some late-game heroics from freshman Ron Artest, who made a free throw with 45 seconds to play and then added a layup after missing his second attempt to seal St. John's victory.
It was the fifth straight win for St. John's (21-7, 13-4 Big East) and its 12th in 13 games. After starting with a 1-3 league mark, the Red Storm have positioned themselves to capture the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big East tournament if they can win at No. 6 Connecticut on Saturday.
The loss left Syracuse (20-7, 10-6) still one-half game ahead of second-place Miami in the Big East 7. The Hurricanes lost to Seton Hall on Tuesday night. Because Syracuse defeated Miami twice this season, the Orangemen only need to win one of their final two games to win their division and get a bye in the conference tournament's opening round next week.
Hamilton's dunk with 3:26 to play put the Red Storm up 63-59. But St. John's turned the ball over twice and Syracuse took advantage, tying the game at 63-63 on Todd Burgan's pull-up jumper from the foul line with 1:44 to play.
After Burgan missed a contested 3-point attempt, Artest was fouled by Ryan Blackwell. Artest made the first shot and his second was tapped back out by Lavor Postell and St. John's retained possession.
"They crashed the boards real hard, especially in the second half," Blackwell said. "The game came down to the wire. We had our chances. They had their chances and they took advantage of it."
Instead of running out the clock, the St. John's freshman took the ball to the basket, scoring past the outreached arm of Syracuse center Etan Thomas.
"He (Artest) was very focused in the second half and kind of took it as a personal challenge," St. John's coach Fran Fraschilla said. "In the seconhalf, he really played with a real purpose, rebounding, making some big plays, some big passes."
Artest finished with just seven points but he had nine rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Postell finished with 16 points for St. John's and helped offset an off-night by Lopez, who scored just 10 points, eight below his team-leading average.
Burgan led Syracuse with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Thomas finished with 14 points in Syracuse's second straight loss.
Burgan had 11 points in the first half to help Syracuse take a 34-28 lead. The half ended with St. John's coach Fran Fraschilla receiving a technical following a verbal assault on the officials. As time expired, an upset Fraschilla rushed onto the court to confront the referees but was held back by his players.
St. John's had not won at the Carrier Dome since January 1993 and had lost six of its last eight meetings with the Orangemen.
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