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Syracuse gets by South Florida

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said there was a simple reason for his team's huge rebounding advantage in Sunday's 55-44 come-from-behind win over host South Florida.

"That's a tribute to the fact we can't make a shot," Boeheim said. "I've never seen a worse offensive performance. I can't remember. Three-on-one fast breaks, lay-ups. Awful."

But the seventh-ranked Orange (14-1, 2-0 Big East) was able to overcome a 10-point first-half deficit by clamping down defensively, and outrebounding the Bulls 43-26, including 23 on the offensive end.

"The offensive rebounds were ridiculous," USF coach Stan Heath said. "Their size, their quickness, their length, just gave them so many more opportunities."

Though Syracuse shot just 36.5 percent for the game, junior guard Brandon Triche (20 points) and forward James Southerland (17) delivered just enough offense to lift it to a fourth straight win.

"I think we have a good team," Boeheim said. "We could lose, if not in the first round, the second round (of the NCAA Tournament), (it) wouldn't even be a shock."

USF (9-3, 0-1), playing in its Big East opener, started off strong in front of 10,024 at a sold-out Sun Dome. The Bulls took a 10-point lead in the first 8 minutes, buoyed by junior forward Victor Rudd. Rudd, who racked up 13 first-half points, had three early dunks and a big block from behind on Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams.

"I wish we could have rode it out," Heath said. "But they turned it up a notch."

USF sophomore guard Anthony Collins said, "They're a good team. We had more turnovers than we usually do. So they took away some opportunities. We just got to learn from it and move on to the next game."

The Bulls were held to just two points in the final 9 minutes of the first half, allowing the Orange to take a 30-23 lead at half. Syracuse adjusted in its 2-3 zone, taking away the baseline lob passes that had worked early, forcing the Bulls to press (17 turnovers).

"It was there," Heath said. "We tried to maybe make the home run, instead of keep hitting singles."

The matchup included two of the nation's top point guards, a pair of sophomores, in USF's Anthony Collins and Syracuse's Carter-Williams. Collins, in just his second game back after getting hospitalized due to a neck injury, finished with just five points. Boeheim recalled how Collins had been the Bulls' key playmaker last season, leading them in their run into the NCAA Tournament, and the Orange put an emphasis on slowing him down.

"That was the story of the game," Boeheim said. "That we were able to keep (Collins) in front of us. We contained him as well as you can."

The Orange opened up a lead as big as 12 in the second half, despite shooting just 27.8 percent in the final 20 minutes.

"Our offense was really bad," Boeheim said. "Really, really bad."

Syracuse was able to slow down Rudd, who after a big first half, was held to just two points in the second half for a total of 15. But the Bulls battled back, pulling to within 47-42 with 4:07 left in the game, and had the ball. But Collins had to settle for tossing up an errant 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.

It was Syracuse's last trip to the newly-renovated Sun Dome before it heads to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. Boeheim, who will make more nostalgic stops on the farewell tour, said the ever-changing Big East played into the move.

"It's not the same," Boeheim said. "If it was the same and we were leaving, I wouldn't leave. I would just retire.

"It's not the same. It's Houston and SMU and you can't even name all the teams that are going to be there."

When it comes to the ACC, Boeheim said, "The ACC is a very stable league. I think ... knock on wood. Knock on some president's head. We hope it's stable. But who knows? Nothing's really stable. Things are going to be changing. There's many changes yet to come."

Notes: Carter-Williams, who entered Sunday leading the nation with 10.1 assists per game, finished with five against USF. ... Syracuse is 10-1 all-time against USF. ... USF has won its Big East opener only once in the past eight seasons. ... The Bulls were looking for just their third win over a top-10 team (No. 8 Marquette, 2009; No. 7 Georgetown, 2010). ... It was the Bulls' first home sellout since December 2011 vs. Florida. ... It was Boeheim's 904th career win.
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