In James Southerland’s absence Saturday, it was a coming out party for a trio of Syracuse freshman. The Orange held on to beat Villanova, 72-61. Nova had been rolling into the Carrier Dome with seven straight wins, and the Wildcats controlled the rebounding battle. SU notches its sixth straight win with help from the fresh faces of DaJuan Coleman, Trevor Cooney, and Jerami Grant. The¬†Orange is now 16-1, 4-0 in the Big East.
Southerland ruled out indefinitely.¬†The university released a statement that Southerland is ineligible. Let‚Äôs hope we aren‚Äôt running into a¬†similar situation as Fab Melo‚Äôs last year. Fab was suspended for academics, but there has been no official word what took Southerland out. SU simply said he was ineligible, but not because of ‚Äúviolation of athletic department rules.” Jim Boeheim was asked postgame about Southerland and immediately interrupted the question:
¬†‚ÄúA statement‚Äôs been released. Listen, we can only play with the players we got.‚Äù
No surprises here, as Boeheim remains quiet in situations like these. We‚Äôll have to wait for an official ruling for when the team expects him to return.
Jerami Grant filled Southerland’s role.¬†Big Game James is averaging 13 PPG on the season. Grant exploded for a career high 13 points off the bench, and added 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 29 minutes of action. Boeheim praised him for a terrific game. If J‚ÄôSouth is out long-term, look for Grant to see more action and to anchor the SU bench.
Coleman gets back in the mix after disappearing the previous two games.¬†Not a great game from the big man, but¬†Coleman showed a ton of upside¬†in the Nova win. His post moves were polished and creative, which lead to three efficient looks in the paint. Encouraging is the word for DaJuan going forward. He‚Äôs another freshman that will see extended minutes with the starting unit now.
He‚Äôs back. Coooooney nails back-to-back threes to put this one out of reach.¬†It looked to be another lost cause for Trevor on Saturday. He had some great looks deep into the second half, and had nothing to show for it after four bricks from three. But with 5:48 to go in the game, Comeback Cooney came up big with a pair of treys to extend Su‚Äôs lead, 61-47.¬†His five three-pointers against Monmouth earlier in the year¬†showed us he‚Äôs absolutely capable of having the hot hand. His makes got the SU crowd pumped. Boeheim said he‚Äôll continue to get better, especially with additional minutes like he had against the Wildcats.
CJ Fair is no question the go-to guy right now.¬†Fair is getting hot at just the right time. With Southerland gone, and Brandon Triche called for his fourth personal foul early in the second half, it was important to get CJ going. He scored 9 of Syracuse‚Äôs first 11 points of the second half and finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks. We assume Triche will get his game back together, but Fair is becoming another top option for Boeheim. He‚Äôs been the most consistent player during this winning streak, and SU will need his big-game instincts in the final two months of the regular season.
Boeheim said this was SU’s grittiest win in years.¬†A slow start offensively really had both teams struggling, but defensively SU got down and dirty to gut out a win. The Orange didn‚Äôt score its first field-goal until four minutes into the game, keeping the Carrier Dome fans standing for quite awhile. This type of win makes a statement that even without its sixth man, Syracuse is a top force in the nation. SU’s place amongst the best will be tested big time next week. The Orange travels to play Slick Rick Pitino and #3 Louisville, and two days later takes on #21 Cincinnati.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen