The experiment is over.
In No. 10 Syracuse’s 90-68 loss against Seton Hall on Tuesday, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tinkered with the starting lineup, inserting forward James Southerland in the game in favor of the struggling Fab Melo.
Southerland — along with the rest of the Orange — struggled. As a result, Southerland will come off the bench as Syracuse tries to snap its three-game losing streak against Marquette, fresh off a 76-68 loss against No. 5 Connecticut on Tuesday.
“We thought starting the game with James, he’d get a couple open looks,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He got them, he just wasn’t able to make them.”
Southerland made his first start of the season Jan. 17 in a 74-66 loss against Pittsburgh. The sophomore forward scored eight points in 38 minutes of action in the loss, but Southerland didn’t have the same kind of impact against Seton Hall.
He scored just four points, shooting just 1-for-5 from the field, including 0-for-4 from downtown, in 19 minutes.
Meanwhile, Melo made a quick appearance in the first half, scoring on a dunk and adding three rebounds in his four minutes of action. But Melo also missed a wild running hook shot that got him pulled from the game. He never returned.
Much of Melo’s struggles have had to do with his conditioning.
“He could not get back down the court after about a minute and 10 seconds in,” Boeheim said. “I don’t know if it’s because he has not done enough running over the course of the last three or four years or played enough basketball, I don’t know. When he can get there he can make plays, but he cannot get there at the pace that these games are played at.”
Fellow freshman center Baye Moussa Keita also saw some action but was equally as ineffective. In seven minutes of play, Keita had two blocks but did not register any points or rebounds.
Syracuse as a team struggled with the lineup change, most notably in Syracuse’s rebounding. The Orange was out-rebounded 40 to 33. While Rick Jackson had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Syracuse received no other contributions.
“[Going small] hurts our defense,” Boeheim said. “That hurts our rebounding. We’re going to go back to playing the two big guys. It’s too much to ask Ricky to play the middle the whole game.”
With little tinkering in sight, how does Syracuse end its three-game losing streak?
“We have to get stronger and tougher,” Jackson said. “We have to want it more than the other team.”
Syracuse will also need to trust each other more.
“The chemistry is going a little backwards,” Brandon Triche said. “We have another half season to get it back together. We’re not really fighting as a whole. We need everyone to play a little better.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.