FAYETTEVILLE — Nothing about the pregame shoot around led Syracuse senior James Southerland to believe Friday would be a big scoring night. Little about the season up to this point suggested he’d have a huge night against Arkansas.
But it was. And he did.
Southerland scored a career-high 35 points on 9 of 13 shooting from behind the 3-point line to lead the Orange to a 91-82 victory.
Even more surprising to Southerland than matching his season total for 3’s was the fact Arkansas (3-3) defenders often left him wide open, particularly in the first half. He came off the bench to hit 6 of 9 shots from behind the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes as Syracuse (5-0) took a 43-38 lead.
“I wasn’t expecting to be that open. But I was open,” said Southerland, who entered the game averaging 14.3 points per game off the bench. “So you just knock it down when you’re open.”
Arkansas’ pressure and trapping defense often left Southerland open on the wing. He started hot, hitting his first five shots as the Orange built a lead they would not relinquish in the second half.
Even after the Razorbacks turned their attention to stopping the 6-foot-8 forward, he was able to knock down shots. It was frustrating to watch him make bucket after bucket.
“He can shoot the ball. A couple times, even when I thought I was there, he still hit it,” Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell said.
Southerland had 22 points by halftime, matching his previous career-high. Foul trouble limited him in the final half, but his shot with 3:42 pushed Syracuse up 82-70. Arkansas would get no closer than eight the rest of the way, something teammate Brandon Triche credited to Southerland’s shooting.
“We just gave the ball to James … and James just made the shot,” Triche said of Southerland, who fittingly had the final field goal of the night for Syracuse.
Southerland also finished with six rebounds and a blocked shot in 32 minutes.
It was like the old days in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas drew 19,259 for the game. It was the largest attendance for a Razorback home game since 2009.
“It was an awesome, awesome environment,” Coach Mike Anderson said. “… We are certainly happy our fans not only show up, they show out. We had over 19,000 and every one was treated to a tremendous ball game.”
That March 1, 2009, an 89-67 victory against Georgia, was the 15th anniversary celebration of Arkansas’ 1994 national championship team.
When the Razorbacks pushed the floor on a second-half fast break they had to like the numbers. A pair of Syracuse defenders collided, giving Arkansas a 5-on-3 break and a seemingly easy scoring opportunity.
But the Orange — as they seemed to do much of the night — found a way to play tough defense on the possession. Arkansas wound up with one of its 14 turnovers.
Syracuse scored 23 points off Razorback miscues.
BJ Young gives the Razorbacks a strong scoring option in the backcourt. He finished with a team-high 25 points and was a catalyst for Arkansas much of the night.
Arkansas didn’t get much help from the team’s other guards. They combined for 19 points, including six from freshman DeQuavious Wagner.