James Southerland got his first start of the season in his final game at the Carrier Dome and made it pay off, posting the first double-double of his career in leading #17 Syracuse to a 78-57 victory over DePaul. Southerland posted game highs of 22 points and ten rebounds in helping the Orange (23-7, 11-6 Big East) keep pace in the race for the fourth seed and the double-bye in next week’s Big East Tournament. It was not the finest effort for SU, but they did force 18 turnovers and collected nine more rebounds than the Blue Demons (11-19, 2-15), who were game for most of the first half before getting blitzed into submission shortly before halftime.
The two squads played a tight game for the opening minutes with neither team leading by more than two points until the Orange got two three-point leads, the latter at 11-8 just over four minutes into the action. DePaul made the next three shots in the game, all from three-point range, to take a 17-11 lead, their largest margin of the night. The Blue Demons matched that margin at 21-15 just over nine minutes into the game, then held Syracuse at bay for another three minutes. However, SU shook out of their offensive slumber with less than six minutes on the clock, scoring on six of their next nine possessions while shutting down the visitors at the same time. The end result was a 15-0 run for the Orange, paced by C.J. Fair’s seven points, that turned a four-point deficit into a 35-24 lead with 1:21 left before the break. The Blue Demons got a basket on their final possession to stop the bleeding, but still trailed by nine points at intermission.
DePaul continued to slice into the SU lead early in the second half, nipping it down to a six-point margin, but Syracuse responded by tightening the screws on defense. The Orange forced seven consecutive scoreless possessions while scoring eight points to take a 43-29 lead. The Blue Demons got the lead back down to nine points on a couple occasions, including shortly after the midpoint of the half, but SU responded with a 9-2 burst in less than two minutes to push their lead to 59-42 with under seven to play. Syracuse allowed the lead to shrink to no less than 15 points after that, stretching the gap to 24 points with under three minutes on the clock and eased to the final horn from there.
» Related: What we learned from the win
Unable to find his range beyond the arc, James Southerland did most of his work at the free throw line, scoring half his 22 points at the stripe while not missing a charity shot. Southerland also grabbed six of his ten rebounds on the offensive end. C.J. Fair posted his 20th consecutive double-figure scoring effort, dropping in 16 points and blocking three shots on defense. Brandon Triche broke out of his scoring slump with 15 points in his final game on the Carrier Dome floor while Michael Carter-Williams added ten points and four steals to the Orange effort. Rakeen Christmas was a force on defense, swatting five DePaul shots.
Syracuse looks to avenge their earlier loss to Georgetown on Saturday in their final Big East game. The #5 Hoyas (23-5, 13-4) had their 11-game winning streak snapped at Villanova on Wednesday night and need to finish the sweep of SU if they are to have any hope of getting the regular season conference title. ESPN will televise the game, which will start at noon.