James Southerland made his presence known quickly Saturday against Notre Dame.
Shortly after checking in midway through the first half of Syracuse’s 70-58 win over the Fighting Irish, Southerland threw down a vicious slam off of a Kris Joseph missed layup. It aroused what had previously been a subdued Carrier Dome crowd.
It would be the first of many highlights for Southerland on the day, as he finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field in 23 minutes.
“It was so quick,” Southerland said of the dunk. “It got everyone in the zone. It definitely helped out big time.”
A few possessions later, after Tim Abromaitis made a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 23-21 lead, Southerland fired back with a 3-point shot of his own.
“I’ve been saying it all year that he was going to start making shots,” Scoop Jardine said. “Today, you saw him get a tip in and make long 3s. You can’t really scout him, especially with the pieces we have on the offensive end.”
But offense is only half of the game.
Southerland had an opportunity to showcase his defensive abilities, adding a block, three steals and three rebounds. He also shadowed guard Ben Hansbrough for a part of the game, helping to hold the Notre Dame guard to 5-for-13 shooting from the field.
“I tried to stay active on defense,” Southerland said. “I just tried to stop them from getting good shots. When coach leaves me out there, I’m going to try to contribute the best way I can.”
That’s exactly what Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did in the second half, as he moved Jackson to the center spot and went with a smaller lineup with Joseph and Southerland manning the forward spots.
The strategy worked perfectly, as Southerland scored seven of his points during a 17-3 run that gave the Orange a 61-47 lead with 7:48 left.
Overall, it was another solid outing for Southerland, who has shot 56 percent from the field in his past four games, compared to 25 percent shooting in his first six games.
“He started out shooting poorly,” Boeheim said. “We know he is a good shooter so eventually he is going to come out and make shots.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.