Southerland's return a big lift for Orange
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — About an hour before Syracuse tipped off against St. John's on Sunday, Orange senior forward James Southerland emerged from the locker room for warmups for the first time in a month.
That's all it took for Syracuse (20-3, 8-2 Big East) to become a bona fide player again.
In this topsy-turvy college basketball season, Syracuse has been a mainstay in the top 10, even without Southerland, who missed six games because of an academic issue that was resolved on Friday.
With Southerland ineligible and 6-foot-9, 288-pound freshman Dajuan Coleman injured two weeks later, coach Jim Boeheim's roster was down to seven scholarship players. The Orange struggled offensively without Southerland, its best outside shooter, going 4-2.
In his first stint on the floor Sunday, Southerland committed a turnover as soon as he touched the ball, then missed all four shots he attempted in the first half. He did convert two free throws before halftime.
“The free throws got me going,” said Southerland. “I just came out (in the second half) and fired.”
Southerland was 4 of 6 in the second half, 3 for 5 from long range, as Syracuse pulled away to a 77-58 win its 13-point lead was cut to five.
The Orange, which had been shooting a woeful 30 percent on 3-pointers in Big East play, finished 10 of 22 (45.5 percent). Southerland hit consecutive 3s in a span of just over a minute to give Syracuse a double-digit lead midway in the second half.
“It shows you the type of team we have,” guard Brandon Triche said. “Emotionally, we were much more confident getting an extra scorer. He's going to open it up for everybody else.”