SU defeats St. John's in Southerland's return

No. 9 Syracuse defeated St. John's Sunday in the Carrier Dome, 77-58, extending the Orange's home win-streak to 37 and giving Jim Boeheim his 16th 20-win season.

The Orange expected a return to offensive efficiency and 3-point shooting with the return of James Southerland on Sunday at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse got what it expected.

No. 9 Syracuse (20-3) used ball movement and unselfish play to get open looks from downtown, hitting those shots at an amazing clip. The offensive fury was too much for St. John’s (15-8) to handle as they struggled defensively throughout the game, ending with a 77-58 victory for SU.

Photo: Ziniu Chen
James Southerland (43) dunks in the Carrier Dome on Sunday, during the Orange's 77-58 win over St. John's.

“When we had to make plays, we made plays,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “James was a little nervous in the first half and a little off in the first half. You know he got the same shots in the second half, and he’s going to make those shots if he gets them.”

Southerland failed to register any field goals during the first half but had an incredible second half, hitting three 3-pointers and registering a trademark thunderous dunk to cause the crowd to erupt.

“I feel that everyone on this team is a difference maker,” said Southerland on his effect on the team while sitting out. “You see Baye (Moussa Keita) and (Rakeem) Christmas in foul trouble and that’s where you need a guy to step up.”

Southerland’s versatility is something Boeheim treasures offensively and defensively. Offensively, Southerland’s play and presence opened up opportunities for his teammates. The Orange ended up having one of their best shooting performances of the season.

“We were just flowing offensively,” guard Michael Carter-Williams said. “ We were patient on offense, we were passing the ball and we were hitting the open shot.”

The team shot 54-percent from the field and shot 46-percent from 3-point range. Four different players scored more than two 3-pointers, thanks to open looks and good passing.

Southerland’s return diminished the minutes of freshman Jerami Grant, who has impressed fans with his energy. The return of Southerland only helps the team, Grant said.

“It just improves the team chemistry,” said freshman Jerami Grant. “We practice with James every day so it only helps that we get to play with him in games.”

Grant helped keep the season afloat by playing extended minutes with the absence of Southerland. Boeheim stated that the 4-2 record while Southerland was out could have easily been 2-4 if it wasn’t for the contributions of Grant. But with Southerland coming back Grant saw only 15 minutes of floor time.

Grant touched on the team chemistry meshing in the team’s last game against Notre Dame, but no game showed a better chemistry between guards Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche than this game. The two combined for 33 points, 15 assists, nine rebounds, seven steals and only 5 turnovers.

“Brandon was out there, scoring and dishing out assists. I was doing the same so I guess it was just a great all around team effort,” said Carter-Williams on his play with Triche.

The score was indicative of the play as St. John’s only temporarily threatened an SU victory in the second half after a JaKarr Sampson jumper cut the SU lead to five. The momentum swung back into the Orange’s favor after Southerland dished out a pass to Triche who finished the play with a dunk.

After that, the Orange didn’t look back. “It was a great play and catch by James and a great finish by Brandon,” Carter-Williams said.

The crowd of 27,169 was the second largest of the season for the Orange and they were riled up for the return of Southerland as they gave him a standing ovation when he checked into the game in the first half. 

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