For just the second time in four seasons Friday night the No. 5-ranked Syracuse Orange earned a non-conference men's basketball victory in a "true" road environment, defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks, 91-82, at Bud Walton Arena.
The Orange (5-0) used a 35-point performance from senior forward James Southerland, who tied a school record with nine 3-pointers, and strong second halves from senior guard Brandon Triche and sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams to help hold off the Razorbacks (3-3); who twice rallied from a 15-point deficit and closed within five points, 59-54, with 12:40 remaining in the game.
Syracuse was able regain a double-digit lead, 67-56, with 10:00 to go thanks to an individual run by Triche, who scored the Orange's next 10 points.
From there, Carter-Williams netted 10 of his 17 points to help close out the road win.
Below are some tidbits, takeaways and opinions on the contest.
-- The officials for Friday's game were Tony Greene, Mike Nance and Leslie Jones, who combined to call 46 fouls. Overall, Syracuse shot 14-for-24 from the free-throw line while Arkansas went 29-for-36 - that's right, the Razorbacks made more free throws (29) than the Orange attempted (24).
(Bonus: if Nance's name sounds familiar it should. He was one of the officials in last year's Elite 8 contest with the Ohio. St. Buckeyes. That game featured 49 fouls.)
-- Southerland's first points of the contest came 4:03 into the first half. In the next 4:38 Southerland scored 15 points.
-- In the final 10 minutes, Carter-Williams had 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and one turnover (he finished with 17-10-9-6).
-- "Big game" James could actually be just that. What he did Friday night was special, and tough his game maybe limited to just stroking shot behind the 3-point line, he maybe has stepped into a very important role - the alpha dog.
Confidence is oozing through Southerland's veins right now and I don't see that changing the rest of the season.
Of course, his shooting streak will hit some valleys, but, I don't expect him to ever disappear in a game like he has in past seasons. Southerland will continue to shoot and continue to be a outside threat, which will help the guards and forwards who rely on taking the ball to the basket - Carter-Williams, Triche and Fair -- in the long run.
-- Despite attempting 12 less free throws and committing five more turnovers than Arkansas, Syracuse did a great job of holding things together in a rowdy environment.
Of course, Southerland scoring more points than Jonny Flynn's 34-point performance in the six-overtime game against the Connecticut Huskies in 2009 helps. But in this type of scenario, where free throw and turnover disparity strongly favors the other team, it usually is too much for a team to overcome on the road.
SU battled, made shots (49-pecent of them) and never lost control of the game.
-- Rakeem Christmas is still soft.
Last season, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim spoke about how nice the sophomore forward was and how much he just needed to get meaner on the court.
Well, five games into the season and Christmas has yet to show a mean streak.
Christmas' offensive tools have improved - he can now hit the turn-around jumper - but when Big East play begins the Orange need him to be an inside presence...
-- ...Especially when freshman center DaJuan Coleman still has a lot of growing up to do.
Coleman served as a good spark for parts of Friday's victory, however, overall he's not reliable enough to play more than 20 minutes. (Coleman played 12 against Arkansas.)
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about the youngster and he has shown improvement in every game. Its just not all a complete package yet.
-- For more on Syracuse basketball, make sure to follow Jared Smith on Twitter (@JaredSmithCNY).