Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Awakening: James Southerland Returns to the Carrier Dome

James Southerland endured an unbelievably bad shooting streak early this season. He went a combined 5 of 23 (21.7%) from the field in the first five games. During that same time period Southerland minutes began to dwindle. After averaging about 13 minutes per game the first 4 games of the season, Southerland would play only 13 total minutes the next five games. He would not get off the bench for three of them.

With the final four games of Syracuse's non-conference schedule approaching, many SU fans looked at this as James Southerland's opportunity to earn his way back into Jim Boeheim's rotation. After a decent performance against Colgate (which saw the entire Syracuse squad put in quality minutes in a 100-43 laugher), James Southerland played sparingly against Iona.

Then C.J. Fair injured his ankle in the first half of the Iona game, and opportunity knocked for James Southerland. Everyone was looking at the 6'8" sophomore from Bayside, NY for a response.

In 21 minutes off the bench last night against Morgan State (4-4) a mid-major program that has been to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, James Southerland gave us his response.

Southerland exploded for 7 of 10 shooting from the floor (70%) and shot a very impressive 4 of 6 from 3-point range (67%). Southerland added 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks to finish with a career high 18 points.

Jim Boeheim spoke on Southerland's opportunistic performance after the game. "He's getting good looks. And he's shooting the ball with a lot of confidence." When asked about Southerland's defense Boeheim continued, "He played well. This was a good game for him."

With C.J. Fair not expected to play against Drexel on Wednesday, James Southerland can expect another great chance to show the coaching staff he is a player that can be trusted in conference play. Not just for mop-up minutes, but critical junctures of the game as well.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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