The day started out fantastically for Syracuse and their fans as James Southerland was ruled eligible to play for the Orange. It continued with a feel good victory over St. John’s 77-58. This was important for the team who was staring two straight road games against UConn and Seton Hall next week.
Southerland’s return produced 13 points, with only two of them coming in the first half. CJ Fair saw his first rest of the season even if brief during this game as he had not been taken out since the Villanova game last month. Fair may be the team’s most important player putting up double-digits for the 19th time this season. He shot 7-of-13 from the field including two three pointers adding nine rebounds.
Syracuse made 10 three pointers as a team and at times seemed more crisp as an offensive unit with their sixth man back. The problems arose that there still were lulls as St. John’s trimmed a double digit lead down to four at one point in the second half. The Orange settled for too many jumpers, but eventually snapped out of it to get the lead back to 10.
The star in the middle was Baye Keita who put in eight points with four rebounds. Rakeem Christmas spent a lot of time on the bench with four fouls and only two points. In some respects, the amount of points and rebounds these two put in along with DaJuan Coleman when he returns, will tell you how far this team will go. They still allowed 10 offensive rebounds in the win, but that is bound to happen against a zone defense which isn’t the most flexible on the boards.
They flashed their national championship potential talent in this one, but also showed the reasons why you can’t guarantee them out of the second round. Should be a fun ride for Syracuse fans.