SYRACUSE In the grand scheme of things, a 21-point home blowout against lowly DePaul doesnt mean much.
But for a Syracuse team on its season-high, three-game losing streak, the Oranges 78-57 Big East Conference win Wednesday night served as a welcome respite in the midst of a grueling, end-of-the-season conference schedule.
Seniors James Southerland (22 points) and Brandon Triche (15) combined for 37 points in their final Carrier Dome appearance as the No. 17 Orange (23-7 overall, 11-6 Big East) moved into a three-way tie for fourth place with Notre Dame and Pittsburgh with a game left at Georgetown on Saturday.
The Orange overcame a slow start and another poor shooting performance to break a two-game home losing streak.
SU went just 2-for-18 on 3-point attempts and shot only 39 percent from the floor.
But the Orange forced 18 turnovers, came up with 22 offensive rebounds and did just enough to send the Blue Demons to their 15th conference loss.
It was important to get a win any way we could, said Triche, who also had five rebounds and four assists in his Dome finale.
I thought we made a lot of extra effort plays tonight, and that was the key to overcome the poor shooting, Triche added.
Southerland, making just his third start of the season and third of his career, also grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He said Senior Night was very exciting. But to get a win we needed badly, that was even better.
A 20-3 run over the final 10 minutes of the first half turned the tide after DePaul had seized a seven-point lead.
SU coach Jim Boeheim said the defense helped us get a few easy baskets when we were struggling, and then we attacked the glass the second half.
And after taking just four free throws the first half, the Orange went to the foul line 27 times in the second half, making 21.
We made a concerted effort to be aggressive even when the shots werent falling, said Southerland, who made all 11 of his free throws, but was 1-for-10 from 3-point range.
I dont think there was any more pressure to win, Southerland added. But we knew that we needed to get a victory just to make us feel a little better about ourselves heading into the postseason.
Triche made his 137th consecutive start, passing Craig Forth for second place on the all-time SU list. He said playing in the Dome for the final time was more exciting that I thought it would be. Having my whole family there made it special, and the fans showed me a lot of love even though Ive been struggling.
Boeheim described Triche as just a special kid who has had an unbelievable career. Hes been pretty consistent from Day 1 and, in my opinion, hes had an underrated effect on this team.
The veteran coach said official Michael Stephens came up to him at the end of the game and said, Triche is one of the nicest kids Ive ever been around. That tells you want people think of him.
Boeheim continued to insist that Triche can be great. And he has been at times. We need him to be if we want to go anywhere this season.
As for Southerland, Boeheim praised his perseverance over the last four years.
He didnt come in highly recruited, but hes worked really hard and learned how to play the game at this level, Boeheim said. He has become a really good player with skills that will translate to the next level.
Southerland was signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans before the game. He said the Orange faithful has lifted his spirits immensely after a trying season in which he missed six games with eligibility problems.
When Ive been down, they and my teammates have lifted me up, Southerland said.
Its been a blessing to be able to wear this uniform and play in this place, he added. Im just glad the last one was pretty good for me and Brandon.
Boeheim said SU will now head to Georgetown, which lost at Villanova Wednesday to fall into a first-place tie with Marquette and Louisville, with the idea of getting our offense in gear and getting ready for the tournaments. Our defense has been fine. We just need to make a few more shots going forward.
DePaul (11-19, 2-15) was led by Cleveland Melvin with 15 points.