Men's Basketball

Southerland leads Syracuse in scoring for 2nd straight game

Ryan MacCammon | Staff Photographer

James Southerland scored a game-high 18 points against Colgate on Sunday. He hit four 3-pointers and jumpstarted the SU offense with 16 points in the first half.

As a young kid growing up on the blacktop of the outdoor courts in Queens, N.Y., and eventually gymnasiums around the Northeast, James Southerland constantly feared missing shots. He couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t acceptable. Any miss, which Southerland viewed as “the end of the world,” resulted in a temper tantrum on the court and self-inflicted blows to the head out of frustration.

“I was still doing it here my freshman year, I’m not going to lie,” Southerland said after Sunday’s win over Colgate. “I missed a shot and I used to be pissed, always get down. But after a while you just realize that when you’re open, you’re going to shoot it and you’ve just got to think ‘make’ the whole time.”

And lately, making shots is all Southerland has been doing.

For the second consecutive outing he led Syracuse in scoring, this time with a game-high 18 points — 16 of which came in the first half — in an 87-51 win over Colgate. He matched the four 3-pointers he had against Princeton on Wednesday with four more on Sunday to jumpstart the offense early and lead the Orange to an easy victory.

“If James gets shots, he makes them,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He gets a lot of shots. He could have had 30 (points) at the half. If he gets his shots, he’ll make some. He’s playing well.”

Southerland teamed up with sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams to surge ahead of Colgate for good by the 15-minute mark of the first half. While the former did the scoring, the latter did the passing. The result was a 23-12 spurt in which Southerland had 13 points on five field goals, four of which were assisted by Carter-Williams.

The streak began with penetration by Carter-Williams, who curled from left to right into the paint and dumped the ball off to Southerland for an easy layup. Then came a beautiful back-door alley-oop from Carter-Williams to Southerland that saw the 6-foot-8-inch swingman leap up and over a Colgate defender.

Southerland then hit three out of his next four 3-pointers to give Syracuse a 33-20 lead with 5:18 to play in the first half.

“He’s doing great,” Carter-Williams said. “He has a lot of confidence in his shot. He’s shooting the ball great. He had a couple tough ones, in-and-outs today. He’ll be right back to it next game.”

For the game, Southerland finished 7-for-12 from the field and 4-for-9 from long range. Several of his 3-pointers rattled in and out, prompting Southerland to apologize to his point guard for taking away a few assists.

But it’s the free-flowing nature and lack of hesitation that pleases Boeheim and assistant coach Gerry McNamara in the early part of the season. Southerland played extended minutes in the first two games of last year’s run to the Elite Eight, scoring a combined 30 points while shooting 5-for-7 from 3-point range. It bred confidence, he said, and told him that the 2012 team could and would rely on his scoring ability.

That’s why he has been quick on the trigger through Syracuse’s first four games. And discounting the season opener against San Diego State— the Orange purposefully avoided taking outside shots — he’s hoisted up 19 attempts in the last three games, connecting 47 percent of the time.

“He’s going out there and playing loose and having fun,” McNamara said. “When James plays at that level, he’s really, really effective. Right now he’s out there enjoying himself.”

Gone are the temper tantrums from his youth and the fears of being yanked quickly by Boeheim that nestled in his mind during his freshman and sophomore years. And in their place are confidence and cold-bloodedness so far in 2012.

His father always used to tell him that he would get another shot, that his mood swings after every miss were worthless. And now, after two years of college and hundreds of games before that, Southerland finally believes him.

“The leash is gone,” he said with a smile. “So I can do whatever I want.”

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