What a difference a week makes.
Despite an epic collapse in the Big East tournament championship game that saw Syracuse go from leading by 16 to losing by 17, the Orange regained its mojo in a big way as the NCAA tournament looms.
Syracuse beat Pittsburgh and Georgetown in back-to-back games after dropping all three contests against those clubs during the regular season.
Syracuse rediscovered its shooting stroke from three by unleashing a long-distance assault on its four opponents that saw the Orange drain 38-of-79 attempts (48.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Orange also got better bench production from Baye Moussa Keita and Trevor Cooney.
Let’s take a look back at the week that was.
James Southerland: After a forgettable final week of the season when Southerland made only one of his 13 three-point attempts, the senior was scorching hot from three in the four games. He set a Big East tournament record with 19 three-pointers, breaking the previous record of former Syracuse player and current assistant coach Gerry McNamara.
Southerland made 57.6 percent of his triples. He sank 6-of-9 against Seton Hall, was a perfect 6-of-6 against Pitt, knocked down 4-of-10 in the win over the Hoyas and sank 3-of-8 in the loss to the Cardinals.
Michael Carter-Williams: For the season, the sophomore averaged 7.7 APG. Syracuse’s offense is at its best when MCW is getting his teammates the ball in the most optimal spots to score.
Carter-Williams did an excellent job of doing just that over the four games. He averaged 9.0 APG (36 total assists) including a clinical 14 assists in the opener against Seton Hall.
Baye Moussa Keita: Someone forgot to tell Moussa Keita that he only averages 3.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG and shoots 58% from the charity stripe.
The junior scored 33 points for the tournament, corralled 19 boards and was 13-of-18 from the free-throw line. But it was in the win against the Hoyas that Moussa Keita erupted.
He scored 13 points (along with Southerland and Triche to lead the Orange), grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and made all seven of his free-throw attempts.
Syracuse's free-throw shooting: Despite having four players (Fair, Southerland, Triche and Carter-Williams) shooting over 72 percent from the line, the Orange struggled to make their free throws during the tournament.
In the four games, Syracuse made 58.1 percent (43-of-74) of its attempts. The Orange were only 1-of-6 in the overtime frame against the Hoyas and converted less than half of its shots (12-of-26) versus Louisville.
Backcourt ball handling: Despite dishing out 36 assists over four games, Carter-Williams also racked up 17 turnovers including six against Pitt and Georgetown. Triche was better overall but became unraveled against Louisville, coughing it up seven times.
Despite struggling with his shot during his first season of action, redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney played a critical role in the victory against the Hoyas.
For the season, Cooney shot only 26.5 percent from beyond the arc. Against Georgetown, he knocked down two huge threes, tallied 10 points and grabbed four rebounds all in the first half. Without his contributions, Syracuse would’ve lost for the third time this year against the Hoyas.
Syracuse enters the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East. It begins play on Thursday against the No. 13 seed Montana in San Jose, CA.
Montana will present a challenge for the Orange as the Grizzlies can shoot the three. Mike Weisner (46.4 percent), Jordan Gregory (44.1 percent), Kevin Henderson (44.0 percent), Spencer Coleman (40.4 percent) and Kareem Jamar (36.3 percent) will present a formidable challenge to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
If the Orange advance, it’ll take on the winner of No. 5 seed UNLV vs. No. 12 seed California.
Let the madness begin.
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