A quick take on Syracuse’s 77-58 win over St. John’s before the second largest home crowd (27,169) of the season on a Sunday mid-winter afternoon at the Carrier Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: In the return of senior forward James Southerland after missing six games due to an academic eligibility issue, the Orange (20-3, 8-2) won their Dome record 37th straight home game and Jim Boeheim recorded his ongoing NCAA record 35th 20-win season in 37 years running the program, defeating a Red Storm team (15-9, 7-5) playing minus head coach Steve Lavin.
Lavin’s 82-year old father Cap died overnight in California, he left Syracuse in mid-morning for New York, and assistant coach Rico Hines filled in running the team. Southerland, who’s clearance to play was announced a couple of hours before the game, entered with 13:16 to play in the first half to an ovation from the Dome patrons, and had a big smile on his face after he connected on his first field goal, a sweet three-pointer from just in front of the Orange bench at the 16:45 mark of the second half. Southerland finished with 13 points, 3-of-7 from three-point range.
ANALYSIS: Up 13 at the half, Syracuse looked uneven as the Red Storm came out of the locker room inspired and cut the lead to five, before James Southerland got hot from three-point range and found Brandon Triche for a beautiful no-look, shuffle pass emphatic dunk to stem one Johnnies rally with back-to-back baskets with 10:00 to play. The Orange had enough offense down the stretch for the final margin.
HERO: Mr. Consistent, C.J. Fair. The fleet junior small forward was scoring inside and out, his athleticism always one step ahead of the SJU defense on route to 17-points, nine rebounds, and two assists.
ZERO: St. John’s shooting. The Red Storm cooled off from afar finishing 5-of-22 (22%) from beyond the arc against the ‘Cuse zone.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will head to the XL Center in downtown Hartford to take on Connecticut for the final time in Big East regular season play on Wed., Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. This game will mark the first non-Jim Boeheim/Jim Calhoun full-time head coach match-up between the schools since 1986. TV: ESPN.Brad Bierman