Sunday afternoon, #7 Syracuse overcame a rough start to escape Tampa with a 55-44 victory over South Florida. After an opening eight minutes where they fell behind by as many as ten points, the Orange (14-1, 2-0 Big East) rose to life and dominated the Bulls (9-4, 0-1) for the remainder of the half, propelling them to the win.
SU put forth an excellent effort on the glass, finishing the game with a plus-ten rebounding advantage and grabbing nearly as many of their missed shots (19) as the Bulls did (20). The dominance on the backboards also helped Syracuse to an 18-4 advantage in second chance points. The Orange also protected the ball well in this low possession game, giving it up only nine times while forcing 15 turnovers.
South Florida made their first four shots of the game in the form of a dunk and three treys to take an 11-7 lead and get the home crowd behind them in the early minutes. The last of those three-pointers triggered a 9-0 run that forced Jim Boeheim to call a time out with the Bulls holding a 17-7 lead and the game barely seven minutes old.
Syracuse collected themselves in the break and responded with nine of the game’s next 11 points to get within 19-16 just after the midpoint of the half. USF worked their lead out to 23-18 over the next few minutes, but the Orange turned up the defensive intensity of the last five minutes of the period, pitching a shutout. At the same time, SU connected on five straight shots to close a 12-0 burst and take a 30-23 lead at the break.
South Florida opened the second half with two baskets to get within three points, but Syracuse responded with an 11-3 run to grab a double-digit lead of their own at 41-30 with just over six minutes elapsed. The Bulls responded with consecutive scores to get within five, but Brandon Triche stepped up for the Orange.
The senior guard put in the next three baskets for SU as they extended their lead to 47-39. A USF triple got them within five with 6:24 to go, but Syracuse ended a three-minute scoreless streak with seven consecutive points, the last four coming from Triche, for a 54-42 lead with a minute to play, then coasted to the finish line.
Brandon Triche had another big game, finishing with 20 points to top all players. James Southerland chipped in with 17 points, collecting over half of them on three triples. C.J. Fair posted a double-double of ten points and ten rebounds, scoring all of his points in the first half.
SU will play on the road again on Wednesday, this time when they take on Providence. The Friars (8-6, 0-2) have struggled of late, dropping four consecutive outings, including their two Big East games by double figures. The action will start at 7:00pm and the game is available on television on SNY.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)