Despite not having its second leading scorer in senior swingman James Southerland, the 7th-ranked Syracuse Orange overcame a slow start to top Villanova 72-61.
Just prior to tip-off, SU announced, "Due to an eligibility matter, Senior James Southerland will not participate in competition until further notice." The university declined to offer further details, citing student privacy laws.
With their super sub on the bench in street clothes, the Orange struggled in the first half. Syracuse didn't score its first field goal until 4:26 into the game, and trailed the Wildcats at the half 29-27.
Things changed dramatically in the second half, as junior forward C.J. Fair got hot. He would lead the Orange with 22 points, to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Fellow forward Jerami Grant -- who saw extended minutes in Southerland's absence -- added a career-high 13 points in 29 minutes of action. He also pulled in 5 rebounds and was very active on defense.
The Orange is now off for a week before travelling to 3rd-ranked Louisville next Saturday. It is still unknown if Southerland will be available for that contest.
Southerland's departure is reminiscent of former teammate Fab Melo, who was also held out because of eligibility concerns a year ago. Melo missed 3 games at the start of the spring semester due to academics, before returning to play through the Big East Tournament. He was then suspended for the NCAA Tournament, where the Orange lost in the Elite Eight.