|You & your crew were horrible today, O'Connell!|
News broke about an hour before tip that James Southerland was ineligible for competition until further notice. The collective jaw of Orange Nation dropped, and there were immediate flashbacks to twelve months ago when, just prior to the second semester beginning, Fab Melo found himself in the same position. As we recall, Syracuse lost that first game without Melo, at Notre Dame, for its first loss of the season. And so, history didn't bode well for what this Orange squad would be facing against Villanova on Saturday in the Carrier Dome. The back and forth closeness of the game certainly didn't leave any Orange fans feeling good about the eventual outcome. That is, until play resumed after the under-8 media timeout. Syracuse quickly stretched its then six point lead up to as much as 14, and would never relinquish control. Jay Wright and his Wildcats leave the Dome for the final time as losers, 72-61.
- The end of the game run was truly a team effort, but it was once again CJ Fair who allowed Syracuse to get to the point to still be in the game once that run came around. CJ led the way for Syracuse with 22 points on seven of twelve shooting, including 7-8 from the line.
- With Southerland on the bench wearing street clothes, this was the freshmen's opportunity to step up and earn their scholarships and prove that they deserve playing time. They rose to the occasion. Jerami Grant had a hell of a day, a career game, with 13 points on 4-7 shooting and 5-6 at the line in 29 minutes. He played with the swagger of a veteran out there, and it was very refreshing to see that kind of effort out of a freshman whose playing time has been quite limited this season. DaJuan Coleman also showed improvement from his previous games: while it was only six points and two rebounds, he showed hustle and was understanding his role in the zone defense a lot better. Trevor Cooney didn't light up the scoreboard either, but his two three-pointers game during the late-game run and acted as daggers to keep the game out of Nova's reach and absolutely electrify the crowd.
- Speaking of the crowd, let's give it up for the 27,586 who came out for this noon tip. 7,000 short of what we've grown accustomed to seeing against Villanova in the Dome, but probably a solid 5,000 more than I was expecting; attendance this season has been down, and with Nova not playing like it once did, I wasn't expecting the attendance to be where it was.
- The crowd also answered the halftime pleas of new football Head Coach Scott Shafer to get behind the team in the second half and get loud. Seems our local fans have it in them, they just need to be poked and prodded to show it!
- Solid 10-point efforts out of Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, while both guards had to play some serious minutes.
- Rakeem Christmas didn't light up the scoreboard either, but in his 33 minutes he made his presence known, and also had some key play in that second half run, including a nice slam dunk.
- Villanova played well, especially early on. The scouting report on the Wildcats stressed their offensive rebounding abilities, and yet Syracuse wasn't able to contain it. Nova had 18 offensive boards, and 40 total rebounds. 14 rebounds were at the hands of Mouphtaou Yarou.
- Nova's efforts on the offensive glass led to 15 second chance points.
- The Wildcats committed 16 turnovers, which led to 16 points off turnovers for Syracuse.
- The officiating in this game was not good. But it was consistently not good. So I really can't say that either team got screwed or that it effected the outcome of the game. Still, at times it led to rising tensions on the court, lots of arguing from both Boeheim and Wright, and I really thought at one point Coleman was going to start a fight.
If James Southerland's issue is of academic nature -- and is fixable -- the upcoming Syracuse schedule bodes well. The Orange won't see action again until Saturday, when they travel to Louisville, who will likely be the #1 team by then. After that, a quick turn around to next Monday in the Dome against Cincinnati, before another bit of time off before traveling to South Philly the following Saturday to play Villanova one last time. Who knows what will come of Southerland's situation and how soon -- if at all -- he will make it back in the lineup. But at least from Friday's effort, we can rest assured that Syracuse can step up and get the job done when necessary.