Ryan MacCammon | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
Southerland’s explosiveness at both ends of floor leads Syracuse to win over Princeton
Princeton’s zone defense troubled Syracuse Wednesday night. It was SU’s first extended encounter with a zone this season. The Orange lacked a spark trying to attack it.
Until James Southerland took the floor.
Southerland finished with a career-high 22 points, and he helped catapult SU to a 73-53 win over Princeton on Wednesday. He went 7-of-11 from the field, and 12 of his points came from behind the arc. He played as a shooting guard, a small forward and a power forward, and everywhere he went he created nightmarish matchups for the Tigers.
On offense that meant launching 3s the Princeton guards could barely run out to defend, much less reach. On defense it meant clogging passing lanes and owning the wings. Southerland recorded four steals within his first four minutes on the court.
“It had a lot to do with me staying active and it can’t hurt to have a 7-foot-3 wingspan, so I’m fine with that,” Southerland said.
Boeheim joked in his postgame press conference that Southerland accidentally stole the ball, and that he’d avoid doing so Sunday against Colgate. The senior forward isn’t known for his defensive presence. Against a Princeton squad reliant on shooting 3s , though, his length was crucial.
All night long, Southerland created fastbreak opportunities for Syracuse.
“I feel like it’s just me going out there and doing what I need to do,” Southerland said. “Everybody knows what I can do, and just utilizing it.”
Suffocating pressure on Princeton’s wings led to the turnovers that opened up the game. Southerland was joined by Baye Moussa Keita, C.J. Fair and Brandon Triche in clogging Princeton’s perimeter game.
“He came in, his shot was falling and he was being very aggressive,” Fair said. “He played well. It’s hard to stop him when you run the zone on him and his shot is going for him.”
With 4:43 left in the first half Brandon Triche missed a wide-open fast-break layup. But as the ball rolled off the rim, Southerland pounced, slamming it home to put SU up 30-16.
When freshman center DaJuan Coleman struggled to keep track of Princeton’s back-door cuts, forcing the 6-foot-9 center off the court, Southerland made sure SU would not feel the loss.
On the very next play he trapped his man on the wing with Triche, sprinted down court and waited in the right corner. He then drained a big 3-pointer.
“We weren’t sharp offensively, as sharp as we’d like to be, but James bailed us out early, made a couple big shots in the first half to give us some distance,” Boeheim said.
Southerland’s contribution mirrored the sixth-man explosion Dion Waiters provided the Orange with last season. Though Southerland and Waiters play vastly different styles, they both helped SU score.
“Well James can certainly do that,” Boeheim said. “He can score. That’s what Dion did. And I think James can score.”
Boeheim expressed disappointment with the way his team attacked Princeton’s zone throughout the game. But SU found the answer with Southerland on the court.
Said Southerland of Princeton’s zone: “My eyes light up, because that’s an easy three for me.”
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