Southerland Carries Orange Late
Perhaps the most pervasive of the narratives following Syracuse’s season is the lack of a go-to guy, that this team has no Gerry McNamara, Jonny Flynn or Pearl Washington to look to when the game is on the line. All year long, different players have stepped up in key situations. Kris Joseph put the team on his back against the Hoyas; Scoop Jardine carried the load against the Huskies last month in the Carrier Dome; Brandon Triche came up big against Florida, Marquette and West Virginia; C.J. Fair led the Orange over Rutgers and Dion Waiters has has been splendid throughout the season.
Yesterday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, James Southerland became the latest to pen his own chapter by putting the Orange on top of the Huskies for good. His ten points won’t jump off the box score, but his contributions couldn’t have been more valuable. The junior sank four shots, all in the second half. The first was a three-pointer that cut the UConn from four to one, and after a blocked shot that eventually led to SU getting the lead, Southerland canned another three to extend the lead from one to four. He later sealed the game by sinking a long two before capping his surge with a pair of free throws.
Southerland has enjoyed some solid performances from the back of SU’s rotation, but not many. As you probably know, he wasn’t much of a factor at all in his first
two seasons with playing time coming at a premium. The athleticism and tools have always been there, but the opportunities to display them against live competition just weren’t coming. All that has changed this year. He’s improved, albeit at a different pace than some of his teammates, but still carved out great games against Villanova and Notre Dame and found ways to contribute in a handful of other matchups. He’s filled in nicely, but until yesterday, Southerland never had that takeover performance where he played a key role in an important win.
As the eighth man in the rotation, Southerland has never had that much pressure on him, but it was still a great experience to see him deliver against UConn, in front of a hometown crowd, no less. Despite Syracuse’s standing in the five boroughs, there’s been a relative shortage of New York City natives playing for the Orange in recent seasons. In the mid-80’s and 90’s, rosters were littered with guys like Pearl Washington, Wendell Alexis, Adrian Autry, Allen Griffin and Jason Cipolla, but ever since Louie McCroskey left the team in 2006, the Big Apple hasn’t borne a Syracuse regular.
Southerland’s emergence on Thursday came as a surprise, but it’s something we won’t soon forget.