Southerland’s return makes Syracuse a threat
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — 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 bonafide player again as the madness that is March approaches.
“It gives us eight guys,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “Seven guys really is not enough. You can get by with seven, but if you have foul problems or a fast-paced game, you need that one extra guy.”
In this topsy-turvy college basketball season — six top 25 teams lost on Saturday alone, including two of the top five — Syracuse has been a mainstay in the top 10, even without Southerland, who missed six games due to an academic issue that was resolved on Friday.
The Orange moved up three spots this week to No. 6, where they were ranked before consecutive road losses to unranked Villanova in overtime and Pittsburgh when the Panthers were not ranked.
Southerland was ruled ineligible before the Orange tipped off at home against Villanova on Jan. 12. Just over two weeks later, 6-foot-9, 288-pound freshman Dajuan Coleman, who started the first 20 games of the season, was lost for a month after undergoing knee surgery.
That dropped Boeheim’s roster to seven scholarship players, and while freshman Jerami Grant played very well in Southerland’s absence, the Orange struggled offensively without its best outside shooter, going 4-2. Syracuse scored only 57 points in a two-point home win over Cincinnati, had 61 in regulation in the loss to Villanova, and matched their season low with 55 against Pitt.
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, and that apparently was all he needed to regain his shooting touch.
“The free throws got me going,” said Southerland, 36 of 95 (37.9 percent) from behind the arc on the season. “I didn’t think about the first half. I … [For more on Southerland's return makes Syracuse a threat again, click here.]