For one night only, “The James Southerland Show” played to rave reviews in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The senior sixth man exploded for a school-record nine three-pointers and a career-high 35 points to lead #6 Syracuse past Arkansas in the Big East-SEC Challenge, 91-82. Southerland topped his previous career best effort in the first half, powering the Orange (5-0) to as big as a 15-point lead over the Razorbacks (3-3). The SU defense was strong in a supporting role, holding the hosts to 38.7 percent shooting from the floor and only 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from beyond the arc.
After the Orange got the opening deuce, Arkansas went for six straight points and an early lead. Syracuse was unimpressed, going on a 15-4 run to take a 17-10 lead just over five minutes into the game. Shortly after that, Southerland hit a pair of three-pointers to power a 10-1 SU run, then tacked on another trey to make the lead 30-15 in favor of the Orange before the ten-minute mark.
The Razorbacks fought back, however, rattling off nine straight points in one stretch to bring the crowd back into the game and clip the Syracuse lead to 33-28 with 5:30 left in the half. SU bounced back with four points to steady the ship and held Arkansas at bay before settling for a 43-38 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks scored the first three points of the second half to get within a pair, but Syracuse had an answer, getting another pair of Southerland bombs as part of a 14-1 burst to take a 57-42 lead less than three minutes into the second session. This time, Arkansas was undeterred, pushing back with a 10-0 run of their own to clip the margin to five points with 14 minutes still left. After each squad posted a pair of scores, SU went on another run, this one personally authored by Brandon Triche, who scored all the points in a 10-2 burst that gave the Orange a 69-56 lead at the midpoint of the half.
The Razorbacks worked the lead down to six points with under seven minutes to play, but Michael Carter-Williams scored five quick points and Southerland tacked on another three to reinstate a 12-point Syracuse lead with under four minutes to play. The Orange eased home from there, never allowing Arkansas to get within six points the rest of the way.
James Southerland’s explosion wrote his name in the Syracuse record books for three-pointers made in a game, tying Gerry McNamara and Andy Rautins with nine triples. He posted 22 of his 35 points in the first half of the game. Michael Carter-Williams had another superb effort, nearly posting a triple-double in the shadows of Southerland’s explosion.
Carter-Williams had 17 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists while adding three steals. Brandon Triche also rang up 17 points, including the crucial run of ten straight in the second half, and had a team-high four steals. C.J. Fair chipped in with 14 points.
The Orange have the weekend off, but hit the hardwood again on Monday when Eastern Michigan comes to the Carrier Dome. The Eagles (5-1), who are coached by former SU assistant Rob Murphy and feature former Syracuse player Dashonte Riley, have won their last four contests. Tip-off is set for 4:00pm Pacific and the game will be televised by ESPNU.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)