SYRACUSE -- The pregame meal was unlike any other for St. John's. Coach Steve Lavin had a simple message: "Keep your head up. I'm with you." But he wasn't there to give that message in person yesterday.

Six hours after Lavin left town after receiving word of the death of his 82-year-old father, the Red Storm started slowly in a 77-58 loss to No. 9 Syracuse.

"It was just crazy. It was just quiet in the room," D'Angelo Harrison said. "It definitely hurt, but we had a game to play. Now we can talk to him and rally around him. It's hard on all of us because we all got a chance to meet him, so we know how he is."

After Cap Lavin died overnight in San Francisco, a team assistant scrawled "Do It for Cap" on the blackboard in the locker room. Assistant coach Rico Hines stepped in to coach for Lavin, who informed the staff at about 9 a.m. and then flew to New York.

"Obviously, he was really hurt," Hines said. "You can't prepare for losing a man that you love so much. I told Coach we would be there for him. We'll go out and play the best that we can, play hard, play for Cap."

St. John's (15-9, 7-5) had won six of seven, the only loss coming last week at Georgetown, and was 2-2 against ranked teams this season. JaKarr Sampson led the way with 21 points. Harrison had 13 and Phil Greene added 10.

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C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points each to lead Syracuse. James Southerland added 13 points in his return after missing the previous six games because of an eligibility issue regarding academics.

It was the 37th straight win in the Carrier Dome for the Orange (20-3, 8-2 Big East), extending the nation's longest active home streak in Division I. The win also gave coach Jim Boeheim his 35th season with at least 20 victories, extending the NCAA record he holds.

St. John's started strong in the second half, but it wasn't enough on a tough day. "Their hearts were heavy,'' Hines said. "After halftime, they kind of let it all hang out. I thought we were going to push ahead . . . Losing Cap is a big blow. He was an ambassador of the game. He loved the game of basketball. My heart was heavy all day."