The final five games of the Big East regular season were unkind to Syracuse. The Orange lost four of five games down the stretch, shooting just over 37 percent from the floor in those defeats. Included in that was a 39-point performance against rival Georgetown, one of the lowest offensive outputs in school history.
But James Southerland and Brandon Triche sparked the Syracuse offense Wednesday and pulled it out of its slump in the Orange’s 75-63 win over Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The win moves No. 19 Syracuse on to face No. 17 Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on Thursday.
Offensive struggles have been the focus for a Syracuse team that earlier in the season looked poised to be in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Much of that centered around the struggles of Triche, who shot a combined 15-of-52 from the floor in the previous five games after being such an integral part of the Syracuse offense throughout the year.
He broke out of that Wednesday with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, helped along by Southerland’s 20 points and 16 more from C.J. Fair. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams facilitated the offense, tying a Big East tournament record with 14 assists.
The impact of a productive Syracuse offense goes beyond just scoring points, though. Making shots allows the Orange to set up defensively and fall back into their patented zone defense, which in turn makes it more difficult for the opponent to hit shots. Syracuse weathered Seton Hall’s hot shooting in the first half, but ultimately pulled away in the second.
Pittsburgh’s defense will be much tougher Thursday than Seton Hall’s was Wednesday, but hitting shots will go a long way toward helping the Orange advance to the Big East semifinals.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.
Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.
“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”
He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.
Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.
Memphis just cannot catch a break.
It’s to the point where I almost feel bad for Josh Pastner.
Today, CBSSports.com reported that Kedren Johnson, a 6-foot-4 point guard that was on track towards being an all-SEC point guard at Vanderbilt, could end up missing the season due to a shoulder injury. If he can handle the pain he can avoid surgery and play with the injury, but at the very least, Johnson is going to be less than his best.
Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Tigers. He sat out 2013-14 after leaving Vanderbilt and entered last season incredibly out of shape. There was hope that he would be able to make a bigger impact this season and help fill the void at the point guard spot.
This news comes on the heels of Memphis finding out that Jaylen Fisher is heading to UNLV. Who’s Jaylen Fisher? Well, he’s a point guard and top 40 recruit from Memphis that was Pastner’s No. 1 recruiting target that opted to leave the city for his college hoops instead of play for the Tigers.
That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as Memphis losing star center Austin Nichols — another local kid — to a transfer over the summer. Nichols transferred to Virginia.