It took a little while for them to get things rolling, but when they did, #19 Syracuse looked much more like the team that spent time in the top five of the polls early this season than the one that had dropped four of their last five games, bouncing back from an early double-digit deficit to cruise past Seton Hall in the second round of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New York, 75-63.
The success of the Orange (24-8), who entered play as the fifth seed in the tourney, was keyed by bounce back performances by seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche. The two, who slumped through a combined 1-for-17 shooting performance their last time out against Georgetown, combined to make 13-of-20 shots for 37 points. The efforts of Southerland and Triche carried SU to the second-highest shooting performance of the season, as the team made 56.3 percent of their shots in the game. The Pirates (15-18) had some early success, particularly from three-point range, as they did not trail the entire first half, but could not sustain that effort and the Orange dominated the second session of play.
Seton Hall opened the game with a pair of three-pointers en route to jumping out to a 13-3 lead just over five minutes into the action. James Southerland brought the Syracuse offense out of its slumber, hitting three times from deep to provide most of the punch in an 11-2 run that had SU within 16-14 less than eight minutes into the contest. The Pirates rattled off the next eight points, however, to regain their ten-point lead as the half neared its midpoint. Southerland buried a couple more shots, including one more from deep, and reserve forward Jerami Grant threw down a putback dunk to get the Orange within 28-23 and bring the Garden crowd to life with under 7:30 on the clock. Both teams went into an offensive funk, but Syracuse roused themselves late in the half, closing with a 9-2 run to tie the game at 34 a side at the break.
The Orange got a quick dunk to open the second half and grab their first lead of the day, then added a three to extend the margin to five. Seton Hall tied the game, then allowed SU to take a lead before tying it twice more. With just over seven minutes elapsed, Syracuse tore off seven straight points in just over 90 seconds to get some breathing room at 53-46. The Pirates got a basket to break the Orange run, but SU replied with 12 unanswered points to blow the game open at 65-48 with under five minutes on the clock. Seton Hall never got the margin down to double figures after that run.
James Southerland but forth a top-notch shooting effort, making 6-of-9 treys en route to his team-high 20 points. Southerland did the bulk of his work in the first half, ringing up 17 points before the break. Brandon Triche was efficient, as well, making two threes in a game for the first time since last facing Seton Hall in mid-February as part of his 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting. C.J. Fair added 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds. The duo also did most of their work after intermission as Fair had 14 points in the second half and Triche 11. Michael Carter-Williams handed out 14 assists, tying the most recorded in a Big East Tournament game.
Syracuse moves on to the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Tuesday, when they will take on #17 Pittsburgh. The Panthers (24-7), who are the fourth-seeded team, beat the Orange at home on February 2, 65-55. ESPN will televise the quarterfinal matchup, which will start at approximately 2:30pm.