Should we have really counted out Syracuse?
Trailing by eight midway through the second half against a UConn team that hasn't lost a postseason game since 2010, Syracuse used it's staunch defense and well-balanced offense to defeat the Huskies, 58-55. This was the sixth time since the beginning of 2012 that the Orange have had to rally back from a second half deficit in order to earn the victory.
Part of the reason they are able to do this on a consistent basis is because they have so many different players who are capable of being the superstar for a night. Opponents cannot possibly lock down on seven different players. UConn had to ride on the coattails of Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. Syracuse rode on the shoulders of whoever was hitting shots.
And on Thursday afternoon, James Southerland was hitting his shots.
"That's the beauty of our team, we guys, if we're double-teamed, we don't have to think twice about passing", said point guard Brandon Triche, who finished with seven points and seven rebounds. "Guys like James, guys like C.J. can knock down shots. We have so many great players, the best one is who ever is open, and James was getting his today."
Southerland finished with only ten points, but the timeliness of the baskets increased his performance value. All ten of his points were scored in the final eight minutes, including a 3-pointer that gave Syracuse the lead for the first time since the first half.
"It felt really great out there," Said Southerland. "Especially being at home and all. It's good my teammates are here for me, they're not giving up on me just because I missed two shots, and it feels good.
But what happens when they get down by too much? Can you consistently rely on erasing second half deficits?
"No matter how much, eight points with 12 minutes to go. That's a lot of time. If we was playing well, we probably could have gone up 20," Said Triche. "Again, tonight it was James. Dion played great too. But anybody on this team can get buckets."
Once again, it's superstar-by-committee for the Syracuse Orange. "It was just a matter of going with the two guys that were playing better," said Jim Boeheim during the post-game press conference.
"Some games it's been those two (Dion and James), some games it's been Scoop and one of them. But today Scoop wasn't making shots, and I thought that the two best offensive players we had were those two guys," Boeheim continued. "I thought Michael Carter had a great first half. He made three great passes, and I thought Rakeem, we're using him coming in at center. He was huge in the first half."
We are enamored with the individual superstar. We want there to be one guy. One LeBron. One Kobe. One Jimmer. One Kemba.
But Syracuse has made a living this year off of finding a new player to lead the way every game.