The last time James Southerland played more than 20 minutes was more than a month ago, when Syracuse lost to Pittsburgh 74-66 on Jan. 17.
You have to go back even further to find the time Southerland last scored more than eight points. That was on Jan. 1 when the Orange topped Notre Dame 70-58.
Southerland saw both of those streaks end Saturday in the Orange’s 58-51 win over Georgetown. Southerland played 21 key minutes for Syracuse and scored nine points.
“CJ [Fair] struggled a little bit the last couple games, and I knew they’d play some zone so I thought James might get something going,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
He was right.
Southerland’s first opportunity came when Dion Waiters drove to the hoop and found Southerland wide open on the baseline. The sophomore drained the shot to give SU a 17-13 lead 10 minutes into the game.
Then, Southerland exploded with 3:05 left in the first half. He tipped in a Waiters’ miss on a 3. A few possessions later, he nailed another long jumper. Finally, with 32 seconds left, Southerland hit a 3 to give Syracuse a 33-23 lead heading into half.
“[Boeheim] basically wants me to be a threat out there,” Southerland said. “When I’m shooting the ball well, I’m definitely a threat out there.”
But being a threat is more than just being a shooter. Southerland fell out of the rotation because he wasn’t contributing in other areas of the floor.
When Kris Joseph was forced to sit out SU’s game against Pittsburgh on Jan. 17 with a head injury, Southerland was promoted to the starting lineup.
He played 38 minutes that night and only had one rebound. In the two games after that, Southerland had only two rebounds in 36 minutes of combined action against Villanova and Seton Hall.
Southerland said Boeheim wanted him to be more “active” and “consistent” with his rebounding and defense.
That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, as Southerland added three rebounds, two steals and a block.
Things were going so well, Boeheim diagrammed the last play of the half for him.
It allowed Southerland to take a wide open shot from beyond the arc with three seconds left. Even though Southerland missed, it was a vote of confidence from Boeheim.
“He helped us today,” Boeheim said. “No question about that.”
Southerland cooled off in the second half, going scoreless while missing both of his shots.
“When I started hitting shots, in the second half, they started focusing on me,” Southerland said. “It gave everyone else an opportunity.”
But it is those opportunities that Boeheim would like to see Southerland taking for himself.
“He looked good and in the second half he pulled the string again,” Boeheim said. “He’s got to keep shooting the ball.”
Brad Bierman contributed to this report.