The Syracuse Orange are coming off a busy week of basketball in which they went 2-1 with victories over St. Johns and Seton Hall, but lost on the road to Connecticut.
Though freshman DaJuan Coleman has been sidelined by a knee surgery, Jim Boeheim’s team received some welcomed news with the return of James Southerland to the fold when the school restored his eligibility after the senior successfully appealed an academic issue.
Syracuse (21-4, 9-3) is now in the home stretch of its Big East swan song.
Let’s take a look back at the week that was.
James Southerland: The senior forward is Syracuse’s best three-point shooter and provides instant offense off the bench. In the three games since he’s returned, Southerland has lived up to that fact going 10-of-25 from beyond the arc. If the Orange are to continue their push for the Big East crown and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need Southerland’s sharp shooting.
C.J. Fair: Fair is arguably the most consistent player on the team. He proved that once again by racking up 17 points and nine rebounds against the Johnnies and by notching a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) against the Hall, helping Syracuse break a three-game road losing streak.
Brandon Triche: Southerland isn’t the only valuable senior Jim Boeheim has at his disposal. Triche was solid in the win against St. Johns with 16 points and seven assists. The guard then erupted at Seton Hall for a career-high 29 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Rakeem Christmas: With Coleman out of the lineup, there is even more of an onus on the sophomore to contribute. Christmas has struggled to do so as of late.
In only 18 minutes of action against St. Johns he scored two points, attempted only two shots and corralled a lone rebound. His rebounding numbers were better in the loss to UConn. In that contest Christmas had six rebounds, three of which were offensive, but he tallied only two points. In the win over Seton Hall, Christmas scored three points (all from the foul line), had two rebounds and fouled out in only 16 minutes.
Christmas managed to collect nine rebounds in three games this week. To put that in perspective, Fair had the same number in Syracuse’s win over St. Johns. With a plethora of scorers on the team, offense isn’t needed from Christmas. Rebounds and valuable minutes anchoring the zone defense are.
Starting to Fade?
Freshman Jerami Grant has started to hit the freshman wall as of late.
In three games last week he played a total of 43 minutes, including a low of only seven against Seton Hall.
In the six games Southerland missed, Grant filled in admirably. He averaged 9.8 PPG.
With Coleman out, Grant has moved into the starting lineup while Southerland still assumes his role as sixth man. If Grant continues to stumble due to the rigors of his first season in the Big East, Southerland’s presence should offset that as he can play starters minutes and provide some scoring punch.
Syracuse has two home games this week, both of which will threaten its 37-game home winning streak.
The Providence Friars come to town on Wednesday looking for payback after suffering a 72-66 setback to the Orange back on January 9 . The Friars come into the game having won four in a row including victories over Cincinnati and a 17-point thrashing of Notre Dame on Saturday.
Guard Bryce Cotton scored 24 points in their last meeting while the Friars knocked down 9-of-18 three-point shots against SU.
On Saturday, the Georgetown Hoyas visit the Carrier Dome for their final time against the Orange in Big East play.
The implications for this game are enormous as both teams are tied with Marquette at 9-3 for first place in the league. These two long-time foes will square off again in the last regular season game of the year at Georgetown.
As if the Hoyas need even more motivation to win, Syracuse will be retiring Carmelo Anthony’s jersey at the game on Saturday. Georgetown would certainly relish raining on that parade.