UConn led by 8 with 14:10 to play, following a vicious Andre Drummond highlight put back slam and Syracuse looked to be on the ropes. In fact, the Huskies still led until the 5:45 mark, and no Orange other than Dion Waiters could hit a shot. It appeared SU was looking at an early exit from the Big East Tourney via a familiar villain. But the Orange were suddenly saved by an unlikely source: “Big Game James” Southerland.
Southerland has struggled with his shot all winter, but stepped up and hit two monster 3’s and a corner jumper in the second half to seize the lead. Boeheim has been waiting on Southerland all season, and The Per’fesser deserves credit for having patience despite all the struggles.
Many people had called for Southerland to be eliminated from the rotation, but Boeheim knew he would eventually be needed. His long-range shooting finally opened up the floor, after UConn had been packing it in tight all game.
The breakout by “Big Game” is huge, not only for the win yesterday, but also for the rest of March. Since the Notre Dame loss Southerland was abysmal, shooting just 13% from downtown (3-23) and not warranting much time. However, Boeheim kept stressing the importance of getting him going and it finally paid off.
For a team that struggles in the halfcourt, a knockdown shooter like Southerland is huge. He can stop force opponents to spread the floor and prevent congestion on drives by Dion, Scoop, and K-Jo. If Southerland turned the corner he would be another key piece on this magical run to New Orleans.
- It was great to finally see Rakeem Christmas backing up Fab Melo. Baye Keita has struggled all year, and Christmas looks far more comfortable in the middle than on the wing. Getting Rakeem some minutes when the spotlight’s bright is important for next season as well.
- Old school C.J. Fair got the start and struggled, while not wearing his signature headband. He said he wasn’t feeling well and it hurt his head, so that could explain his poor performance.
- Michael Carter-Williams played well dishing out some pretty assists and earned himself more minutes tonight against Cincy.
- Jim Boeheim addressed the Yahoo! drug testing report, and laid down an epic lecture to the assembled media. The HOFer was showing that defiance that has been a hallmark of his teams.
- Scoop Jardine didn’t have it again today, but we shouldn’t be too concerned. He has a short memory and will be fine.
- Dion was exceptional, getting to the rim at well and carrying the offense for stretches, finishing with a team-high 18 points.
- Syracuse once again struggled on the boards, giving up 14 offensive rebounds and getting out-rebounded 39-32. Need to be better than that in the NCAA Tourney.
- The path to the Big East Tournament title has really opened up with Georgetown and Marquette falling. Should Syracuse survive an unranked and tired Bearcats squad tonight, it’s either Boeheim vs. Slick Rick in the final, or a shot at revenge for the Notre Dame loss.
Posted: Alex Plavin