The Syracuse Orange men's basketball squad has been peeled back as of late by the likes of the Georgetown Hoyas, Marquette Golden Eagles, and Louisville Cardinals.
After seeing the buzzer ring on their home-winning streak and earlier on their undefeated start in the Big East Conference, Syracuse was in need of a victory.
With two games to go and seeding in the Big East Tournament a bigger blip on the current radar, winning became a necessity.
Enter the DePaul Blue Demons, a 2-14 conference team seven games under .500 overall, yet a team who forced the Notre Dame Fighting Irish into overtime in both of their match-ups with the top-five squad.
They came out attacking, fighting to gain the advantage in a seesaw first four and a half minutes with the Orange.
From there, the Blue Demons would own the advantage over the Orange for almost 10 minutes.
But at the 4:21 mark, one of the players celebrating Senior Night inside the Carrier Dome, Syracuse forward James Southerland, fittingly connected on the jumper that would provide the Orange with the lead for good. Along with the last minutes of the opening half, the entire second half was led by the Orange.
However, though the lead was with Syracuse, the struggles from the field did not fade away. After making 15 of 37 (40.5%) in the first half, the Orange amounted 11 of 30 (36.7%) in the latter half to close out the match with 67 attempts, but only 26 makes from the field.
Junior forward C.J. Fair continued to finish ahead of the curve, making seven of 16 on another trying time from the field.
Syracuse's woes in jump shooting as a total unit continued, with five of 19 going through the cylinder in the first half, followed by a 3-for-16 performance in the second half.
A mere two of Syracuse's 18 three-point attempts graced the inside of the net, with their best option from long range, Southerland, going 1-for-10.
So where did the points come from for the Orange? On the boards. Syracuse grabbed 22 offensive rebounds against DePaul, scoring 21 points as a result of second-chance opportunities.
The Orange attacked the basket, something that was lost within their last three games, all defeats. They scored 40 points inside the paint as well as challenged defenders inside, getting to the free throw line.
At the charity stripe, Syracuse made 24 of their 31 opportunities. They made all but six of their 27 attempts at the line in the second half. The backcourt improved in their output on the line, with sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams going 4-for-5 and senior guard Brandon Triche finishing 7-for-9. Southerland performed the best, making all 11 of his opportunities.
The Orange win also came from their defense which helped to force 18 turnovers, half of them coming from steals (9). Carter-Williams was the only player with multiple steals in the game for Syracuse (4).
Fellow guard Triche came out out of the game for the last time at the Dome at the 2:10 mark. He finished his Senior Night with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, and one block.
A little over a minute before him, four-year teammate Southerland exited the match at the 3:28 mark for the final time at the Dome. He led all Orange and every player from either side in points, with 22. Southerland's 10 rebounds bonded with his point total to give him a double-double on his Senior Night, where he also amounted one assist, one turnover, and one steal.
Fellow seniors Griffin Hoffman and Matt Lyde-Cajuste with 40 seconds to play. Although neither attempted a shot, they shared with Triche and Southerland the opportunity to play atop the court inside one of college basketball's most well-known venues.
Before the game, all four shared the court as well, as their loved ones joined them in celebration of their time at Syracuse University as members of the Orange.
Now Syracuse must shift their focus to Georgetown, their longtime rival who recently defeated them at home in front of the largest on-campus crowd ever assembled for an NCAA Division I men's basketball game (35,012). That contest is set to tipoff on Saturday, March 9th, at Noon ET.