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Syracuse overcomes slow start to beat USF 55-44

AP - Sports
Syracuse overcomes slow start to beat USF 55-44
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Syracuse's C.J. Fair, left, dunks past South Florida's Anthony Collins during the first half of an NCAA …

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- No. 7 Syracuse played pretty well in delivering the victory that moved Jim Boeheim into second place on college basketball's career wins list, so naturally the coach was hoping there would be some carry-over in the team's Big East road opener against South Florida.

The Orange overcame a slow start and cold shooting to beat the Bulls 55-44 on Sunday, however Boeheim hardly was impressed with what he described as one of the worst offensive performances he's seen.

''Offense was really bad. That's all I can tell you. Really, really bad,'' Boeheim said.

''If you can't score on a 4-on-1 fast break, there's something wrong with what we're doing. We came off probably 20, 25 minutes of the best basketball we played all year against Rutgers the other day,'' he added. ''There's just no possible explanation for the way we played today.''

Brandon Triche had 20 points and James Southerland scored 12 of his 17 in the second half. C.J. Fair contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Orange (14-1, 2-0), who won for the fourth straight time following their only loss of the season to Temple.

South Florida (9-4, 0-1) trimmed what had been an 11-point deficit to 47-42 with six minutes remaining, however the Bulls were held to one basket the rest of the way.

''After the first part of the game we played great defense,'' said Boeheim, who picked up career win No. 904 in what was Syracuse's last scheduled trip to the Sun Dome as a member of the Big East.

An announced season-high crowd of 10,024 - a sizeable portion Orange-clad Syracuse fans - nearly filled the renovated on-campus facility that reopened this season.

''We had 3,000, 4,000 people here. You look around up there, they were all orange shirts. We get great support down here,'' Boeheim said. ''They've done an unbelievable job with this arena. I mean, it's a beautiful arena. It's as good as any of the places in the league. They did an unbelievable job fixing this up.''

Southerland's long 3-pointer put Syracuse up 50-42 and Triche followed with a driving layup and a pair of free throws to push the lead back to double-digits.

Victor Rudd led USF with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Jawanza Poland finished with 12 points for the Bulls, who led by 10 before Syracuse asserted themselves defensively.

''We had moments where we looked very effective, and we had times where we just kind of stood around and didn't attack very well against their zone,'' South Florida coach Stan Heath said.

''We didn't shoot well, but they didn't shoot well either - and I told our team, we beat them in every percentage offensive area, but the offensive rebounds was just ridiculous,'' said Heath, noting Syracuse had 23 to USF's 6. ''Their size, their quickness, that just gave them so many more opportunities than we had. That was a huge difference in the game.''

In their first outing since Boeheim passed Bob Knight for No. 2 on the career wins list, the Orange fell behind by 17-7 before going on a 23-6 run to take a 30-23 halftime lead. Triche and Fair scored 10 of the last 12 points during the stretch and Syracuse limited USF's sputtering offense to just one field goal over the final 11 minutes of the surge.

South Florida, coming off a season in which the Bulls tied the school record with 22 wins and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years, cooled after getting three highlight reel dunks from Rudd and making a trio of 3-pointers to build its early lead. Rudd had 13 points at the break, but received little support from his teammates, including star guard Anthony Collins, who did not take a shot in the opening half.

Balanced scoring was one of the key to a four-game winning streak USF put together following a 12-point road loss to Oklahoma State on Dec. 5.

But what the Bulls consistently do best is play stingy defense, which enables them to overcome poor shooting. Syracuse shot 36.5 percent from the field and was held to its lowest point total of the season.

Collins wound up taking just two shots and finishing with five points. Nevertheless, he was one of the main reasons that USF was able to keep Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams in check.

Carter-Williams missed 12 of 13 shots while scoring four points - well below his season average of 12.2. The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard however did have nine rebounds, five assists and four steals.

''That's a good team. It's always going to be a game of runs,'' Heath said. ''You're not going to hold that team to nothing. They responded. They stepped up and made some shots, I wish we could have rode it out, but one thing they did was turn it up a notch.''

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