Last season, Dion Waiters sparkled off the bench for Syracuse, following in the footsteps of teammate Kris Joseph. Now it is James Southerland’s turn.
Southerland scored a career-high 22 points and had five steals, Michael Carter-Williams added 10 points and nine assists, and No. 6 Syracuse beat Princeton 73-53 on Wednesday night.
Southerland, a deadly shooter from outside, went 3 of 3 from beyond the arc in the first half to help stake Syracuse to a double-digit lead early and was a thorn in the Tigers’ side all night.
”I felt it tonight after a couple of steals,” said Southerland, who swished a 3 and converted two three-point plays in the final 7:16 as Syracuse pulled away. ”I was staying active out there. My confidence is always growing. I feel every game it’s getting bigger.”
Syracuse (3-0) won its 24th straight game in the Carrier Dome and boosted its record to 31-0 against the Ivy League in the Dome. The Orange also has won 35 in a row at home against nonconference foes and six in a row in the series with Princeton (1-3), which lost its third straight.
C.J. Fair had 12 points and Brandon Triche and Rakeem Christmas each had 10 as Christmas matched his career high.
Clay Wilson led Princeton with 15 points, Brandon Connolly had 11, and Ian Hummer had 10.
Syracuse had 19 steals, three off the school record, as the Orange forced the Tigers into 24 turnovers. Princeton, the preseason pick to win the Ivies, fell victim just as Wagner did last weekend in committing 23 turnovers in a loss to Syracuse.
”At times we were OK, but we just had so many turnovers,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. ”They had 19 more shots than we did. We have to be able to take better care of the ball, especially on the road against a good Syracuse team.
”I thought we got pretty good looks from our second team, but the way that they circle behind you, the way that they trap the short corners, it’s hard for us to see that. I was hoping we would have a little more toughness with the ball.”
Syracuse gained a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes, but both teams struggled early. After a stretch of nearly 4 minutes without a point being scored, Triche converted a pair of free throws and Southerland swished a 3 from the top of the key to give Syracuse a 20-8 lead with 9:56 left.
Princeton’s motion offense found few openings in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone as the Tigers committed 14 turnovers in the opening half that the Orange converted into 15 points.
”We just try to take away certain spots, try to take away the middle, the baseline,” Carter-Williams said. ”We just try to do the best job we can of getting our hands in there. They’re a very patient team. They take their time and run the shot clock down and try to catch us laid-back. I think it was good for us.”
A nifty pass from Hummer to Connolly for an easy layup off the glass was the kind of play the Tigers thrive on, but Southerland answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 28-14 lead.
”He (Southerland) seemed to make a big shot right when they needed it,” Henderson said. ”Yeah, he hurt us.”
Syracuse stretched its lead to 35-19 on Southerland’s high, arcing 3 from the right corner with 2:50 left in the half, but Wilson hit a 3 and T.J. Bray hit another at the buzzer to pull Princeton to 36-25 at the break.
Not bad considering Syracuse had 12 steals and a 14-4 edge in second-chance points and that Hummer, the Tigers’ leading scorer at nearly 16 points a game, only attempted three shots.
Still, the Tigers didn’t go away without challenging. Princeton surged to 45-39 on Wilson’s 3 off an inbounds pass with 13:42 left.
”We played well at times, but overall we just didn’t put together a good 40 minutes,” Hummer said. ”We haven’t done that yet.”
Unfazed, the Orange responded with an 8-0 spurt to erase any doubt about the final outcome.
Triche set up Christmas for a dunk and followed with a driving layup. Carter-Williams then fed Baye Moussa Keita for another layup and Fair’s follow made it 53-39 at 11:05.
Southerland’s three-point play boosted the lead to 58-43 with just over 7 minutes remaining.
”It’s great (coming off the bench),” Southerland said. ”I can actually see the game before I get in there. I go in with a lot of energy.”