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.