SOUTHERN COMFORT: Southerland’s career night from beyond the arc carries Syracuse to win over Arkansas
No. 6 Syracuse 91, Arkansas 82
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nine times, James Southerland sent a dagger through Arkansas’s hopes for an upset. Nine times Southerland silenced a raucous crowd that screamed for much of the game. And nine times Southerland showed why he’s undoubtedly the best sixth man in the country so far this season.
In a packed Bud Walton Arena, Southerland put on a show for the 18,370 fans in attendance. As much as they yearned to see their Razorbacks pull off a major upset, Southerland reminded them it wasn’t going to happen. The Orange forward hit nine of his 13 3-point attempts and finished with 35 points to lead Syracuse (5-0) to a 91-82 win over Arkansas (3-3) on Friday.
He’s the first SU player to score at least 30 points since Wes Johnson had 31 against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in 2010. And Southerland’s nine 3s tied a record for the most in a game with Andy Rautins and current Syracuse assistant coach Gerry McNamara.
“I feel like anytime I’m in rhythm,” Southerland said, “I’m going to take it.”
He never lost the spark from the moment he entered the game at the 17:37 mark in the first half.
From the opening tip, the game took on a frenzied, up-and-down pace. So when Arkansas guard B.J. Young dunked to make it 10-7 Razorbacks, the arena rocked. But 50 seconds later, Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams found Southerland open in the left corner, and he knocked down his first 3 as he fell to the ground to give SU a 12-10 lead.
Thirty seconds later, he did it again. This time, he swished a 3 from the top of the key that made it a five-point game.
Against the Razorbacks’ smothering full-court press, the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball,” Southerland took advantage of each open look, making his first five attempts.
“You’re going to get open shots,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “If he gets those shots, he’s going to make them pretty much every night.”
Southerland’s third, fourth and fifth triples in the next six minutes opened up a 15-point lead for the Orange. Then at the 8:31 mark, Brandon Triche stole the ball from Young and dished the ball to C.J. Fair, who sent a perfect pass to Southerland at the rim and he slammed the ball home as Young fouled him.
But the Razorbacks chipped away at their double-digit deficit.
Young, Arkansas’s leading scorer, took over. The Razorbacks went on a 9-0 run, with each point belonging to Young. Arkansas closed to within 33-28 before DaJuan Coleman hit a free throw to end the run and make it 34-28.
Still, it was a six-point game. Still, the fans had hope for an upset.
But Southerland tempered their excitement again when he knocked down a wide-open 3 from the right wing to make it 37-28.
Each 3-pointer he hit had meaning. Each came at a big moment. In a game where the Razorbacks’ defense was stifling, Southerland was the one player they had no answer for.
“It’s great to have James as a teammate,” Carter-Williams said. “He made a lot of big shots and we wouldn’t have won the game without him. He’s just a great player.”
The Orange went into halftime up 43-38. Again, the five-point deficit only created more false hope for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks closed to within three after center Hunter Mickelson converted one of two free throws less than a minute into the half. Then Southerland hit another 3 from the left wing and made it a six-point game.
Arkansas got close. Southerland negated it.
And then Carter-Williams stole the ball from Rashad Madden, raced up the court and found Southerland in the left corner for his eighth 3. That made it 51-42 Syracuse.
“Brandon and Michael, they have high IQs so they know where to find the open shooter,” Southerland said. “They do a great job of penetrating and kicking the ball out as you could see today.”
And Southerland allowed the rest of the offense to flow. Triche came up with a steal and converted the transition layup to put SU up 61-54 with less than 12 minutes remaining.
And while Arkansas tried to climb back, it simply couldn’t because of Southerland.
He hit his ninth and final 3 from the left corner to put Syracuse up 82-70 with less than four minutes to go, sealing the win for the Orange.
Arkansas tried to pull the upset. Its fans created an electric atmosphere to make it happen. But Southerland refused to let it happen.
“Just for him to step up as a senior, he waited four long years to be able to produce like this,” Triche said. “I think it’s all coming together when it needs to.”
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