Yep. That pretty much sums it up for me, too. - USA TODAY Sports
The Syracuse Orange toughed out a 72-61 win over the Villanova Wildcats in a Saturday nooner, but the big news was the announcement that senior sixth man James Southerland was kept out of the game “due to an eligibility matter”, according to Syracuse Athletics.
The Orange asked a handful of other players to step up in Southerland’s absence, but would they be able to shoulder the additional responsibilities?
Here’s my report card on SU’s win over the ‘Cats.
Head of the Class
C.J. Fair: With Southerland out and Brandon Triche in foul trouble for most of the second half, someone had to step up and put the ball in the basket. Fortunately for Orange fans, Carl Fair Jr. answered the call. Fair was spectacular in his all-around demolition of the Wildcats, scoring 22 points on 7-12 shooting from the floor and 7-8 from the free throw line. He also pitched in with five rebounds and four blocks in a yeoman’s 38 minutes of action. This is what you like to see from a junior when the senior leaders are out of the game.
Jerami Grant: In the absence of Southerland, someone had to step up and attempt to fill in that production off the bench. Saturday, Jerami Grant was that man. Grant tallied a career-high 29 minutes and responded with 13 points and five rebounds, the former also a career high. Grant’s energy and activity around the rim were infectious, and really sparked the Orange defense when they needed it most in the second half.
Scott Shafer: Shafer spoke to the crowd at halftime, and reiterated some of the high notes from his press conference on Friday. I was so fired up I wanted to put on a helmet and go hit someone.
Stay After School
James Southerland: Who else had Fab Melo flashbacks when they heard the news? Now we don’t know for sure why James is out, but the timing tells me that academics are the likely suspect. It’s odd for a senior to have academic issues, so let’s hope this is just the University being extra cautious (like with Melo last year) and Southerland will be back on the court sooner rather than later.
Michael Carter-Williams: MCW had the most nondescript ten points and seven assists I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because he was 3-12 from the floor, or maybe because there were stretches here I forgot he was even out there. When Triche went out with four fouls in the second half I expected MCW to take over the game, but he didn’t. Fair did. That’s fine, but what’s going on with allegedly the best point guard in the nation?
Overall Grade: B-
A win is a win, especially with your top two scorers on the bench in crunch time. But the talk this week will be about Southerland’s absence more than Fair or Grant’s great play, and that’s a shame. Can’t SU ever have a basketball season where the focus is ON the court?