Syracuse finds its rhythm as James Southerland returns

Southerland returned on Sunday


Merriam-Webster defines it as “a movement … marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.”

Rhythm is something the Orange hasn’t had since James Southerland was sidelined due to an academic issue. There was no regular movement, there was no natural flow, and the Orange struggled.

In the victory over St. John’s, the Orange shot over 50%, something that never happened while Southerland was away. SU also scored 77 points in the win, the most since Rutgers on January 2nd, Southerland’s last home game before being declared ineligible.

» Related: What is the impact of Southerland’s return?

Southerland returned on Sunday

The numbers prove it. The offense isn’t the same without Southerland coming off the bench. Having his presence back in the lineup is huge for the Orange, especially with the depth issues that have surfaced this season. But the offensive end of the ball isn’t the only place Southerland has an impact.

The Orange interior defense was extremely impressive at the beginning of the season. It was nearly impossible to get the ball inside and when someone did, they’d be trapped by a couple lengthy SU defenders and would most likely turn the ball over. Since Southerland was ruled ineligible, interior defense has lacked the prowess it had before. Not only have opposing offenses been able to penetrate, but they’ve been getting a lot of second chance points off offensive rebounds. Southerland will provide long arms and another chance at grabbing rebounds.

Another benefit to James being back is that CJ Fair finally gets a rest. Fair sat on the bench against St. John’s for the first time in since January 12th against Villanova. Fair sat for just a minute today but he’ll start to get a considerable rest once Southerland is operating on all cylinders.

» Related: Orange cruised past St. John’s

Southerland is also a huge addition to the defensive side of the ball. Jerami Grant has the kind of length Southerland has, but his inexperience often shows. Southerland knows the zone inside and out and forces opponents into some bad passes. Having him back helps the defense tremendously and that showed against St. John’s. You might not be able to see it in his numbers, but the team’s numbers definitely reflected it.

With Southerland back in the lineup, the Orange becomes an NCAA Championship contender again. His offensive spark, length on defense and senior leadership makes SU an entirely different team. You could tell Orange fans missed him when he walked to the scorer’s table for the first time and the Carrier Dome erupted.

Welcome back, James.

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