Landing Back on the Court

Syracuse's bench lost a potential threat on the court with the loss of Southerland. Upon returning, Southerland shares with his thoughts on himself and the team inside.

Syracuse Orange senior forward James Southerland has, like many of those who care about the men's basketball program, been watching the matches as opposed to playing in them.

After facing the Providence Friars on the road in Rhode Island, Southerland was placed on a six-game hiatus, taking him away from the floor. He missed the latter four games in January, followed by Syracuse's first two opponents in February.

Before his absence, Southerland was the team's leading scorer. In 10 of 16 contests, he reached double-figures.

He, even throughout his time off the court, still has the highest-scoring outing of the current season by an Orange player, that being his 35 points that came against the Arkansas Razorbacks on the road on November 30th of last year.

From long range, Southerland had connected on three or more three-point attempts in six of the 16 games he played in, and made at least one three in 11 of those 16 matches.

However, in his last six games before being taken off the court, the senior forward was 7-for-31 from beyond the arc.

What put him back was a hearing which ruled in his favor that occurred prior to Syracuse's home match with the St. John's Red Storm.

Southerland went 0-for-4 to begin his return, ending with two points on 2-for-2 shooting from the free throw line to close out the first half.

In the second half, Southerland hit his first three in over a month, dating back to Syracuse's January 9th meeting with Providence, with 16:43 to go against St. John's.

It was truly what has been referred to before as "a tale of two halves" as Southerland went from 0-for-2 from deep in the first half to a 3-for-5 performance in the second half.

Overall, Southerland improved from an 0-for-4 outing from the field in the first half to a 4-for-6 finish in the second half.

When asked about his improvement between halves as far as taking the rust off from being out the last six games, Southerland said, "Just going out there, first half, trying to be in sync. It's been awhile since I've played. Been like a whole month. So just first half, just making sure I don't try to force anything. Just go out there and just play my game."

Without Southerland's aid, forwards, junior C.J. Fair and freshman Jerami Grant, each assumed bigger roles, including that of playing a full 40-minute game.

"He's definitely been doing a great job," Southerland remarked in reference to Fair. "He's been giving us a little more of what he does and that's always great from a guy like him."

Fair played for the entire time in five of the six games that Southerland did not compete in, including a 45-minute performance in the overtime road match Syracuse had with the Villanova Wildcats on January 26th of this year. In his expanded role, Fair never dipped below double-digits, reaching at least 20 points in two of the six contests.

On the boards, Fair had no less than five rebounds in all but one game of the six the Orange participated in without Southerland.

"And, also, Jerami Grant did a great job of stepping up," Southerland added. "He's only a freshman, but this kid has a lot of talent and skill. He definitely stepped up when his name was called."

Grant went from playing in a combined 10 minutes between Syracuse's matches with South Florida and Providence to being on the floor for no less than 27 minutes in all of the six games where Southerland was absent on the court. The freshman forward did not come off for anything more than a timeout against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, playing in all 40 minutes of both matches.

In the six-game stretch, Grant attained double-digits in scoring versus four opponents.

He had no less than five rebounds in each of those six games.

Sharing what it was like to watch the games as opposed to contributing to them on the floor, Southerland said, "It was definitely difficult, but at the same time, you just gotta be there for them. Be a leader, off the court and on the court 'cause my energy, even though my energy was missing, my presence was still there, especially for the home games."

As far as what sitting out taught Southerland in regards of being a better leader, he offered, "Just knowing that when things are down for me, you still gotta be a great leader for the team. You can't really be down on the stuff that you're going through. You gotta support the team for their benefit."

The Orange amounted a 4-2 record without Southerland and are now 1-0 in his return. Looking at whether or not integrating himself back into the team in games will be a smooth transition or not, Southerland expressed, "I feel like it'll be a definitely a smooth transition for all of us. And definitely bring confidence in Jerami [Grant] 'cause the past six games, he [has] been doing his thing and we're gonna need him down the line."

The next match-up for the +1 Orange will be on Wednesday, February 13th, at 7pm ET.

Cuse Nation Top Stories