Syracuse made the South Florida area Orange country.
Playing in front of a mostly pro-Syracuse crowd at the St. Petersburg Times Forum, Rick Jackson scored a season-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as No. 17 Syracuse (20-4, 7-4 Big East) routed South Florida (8-16, 2-9) 72-49. It was Jackson’s Big East leading 16th double-double.
“Lately, I’ve been getting my rhythm down there in the block,” Jackson said. “For some reason, I just feel more comfortable taking my time. Coach is putting more faith in me down there. I’m just going out and trying to score the ball.”
The crowd was mostly Orange fans as “Let’s go Orange” chants filled the arena as time expired.
“Today was one of the best crowds we’ve had down here,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Kind of like a home game a little bit.”
The Orange led for all but about one minute of the game as its defense enjoyed its second-straight solid outing. On Wednesday, the Orange held Connecticut to 58 points in snapping its four-game losing streak. SU had given up 80.7 points per game during its skid.
The effort from Connecticut carried over, as SU held South Florida to 35 percent shooting from the field and 2-for-15 from 3-point land. The Orange also out-rebounded USF 40-26 as USF’s big men Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous struggled to contain Jackson.
“Ricky’s been good from day one,” Boeheim said. “He’s been good right from the beginning. He’s not had a bad night. He literally hasn’t. He’s been consistent for us all year long.”
Syracuse’s zone was active, especially in the second half. Four of USF’s 11 turnovers came in the opening four minutes of the second half. The last of the four turnovers was created by Jackson, who took a Scoop Jardine pass to finish on the break with a slam.
A Brandon Triche layup on the ensuing possession would cap a 10-3 run to give SU a 47-31 lead with 15:55 left.
Kris Joseph added 14 points and seven rebounds while CJ Fair chipped in with seven points, nine rebounds and three blocks as Boeheim notched his 33rd 20-win season.
“CJ was really good in the first half,” Boeheim said. “He was a big key, I thought. He made a couple of big blocks and had a really good game.”
Famous scored 14 points, and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 10 to lead South Florida.
South Florida stayed close early on as SU committed four turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. But the Orange would take the lead for good after Dion Waiters drained a 3-pointer to give SU a 13-11 lead with 12:07 left in the opening half.
That would spark a 12-0 Syracuse run as a Fair layup gave the Orange a 22-11 lead with 8:01 left in the first half. USF would get no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“We just want to win games,” Jardine said. “We just want to continue to get better. Take the little things from this game and carry it into the next games. That’s how it is. That’s how its been all season.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.