On Tuesday, Syracuse used a barrage of three-pointers to bury Seton Hall. But in the first half against South Florida, SU bulled its way into the paint for easy baskets. After an Andy Rautins trey, center Arinze Onuaku scored two baskets inside including an easy dunk to put the ‘Cuse up top 7-2 early on. The Bulls would score two consecutive baskets to pull to within a point and for the next six minutes SU's lead would teeter between one and three points.
With 11 minutes remaining, Syracuse put together a 9-0 scoring run to extend its advantage to double digits. Rick Jackson started it with a lay-up and then found forward Kristof Ongenaet wide open for a two-handed slam. After a fastbreak hoop by Jonny Flynn, freshman Kris Joseph hit a pair of free throws and capped the run with a basket of his own to give the ‘Cuse a 23-12 lead.
The Bulls would cut the deficit to five, but then the Orange put together another run. Eric Devendorf dropped in his first points of the game and then Rautins went to work. First he knocked down his second shot from beyond the arc. Then the guard assisted on the next three Orange baskets to help give SU a commanding 35-19 lead after an 11-0 scoring run to end the half.
Syracuse absolutely dominated on the inside as 13 of its 15 made field goals came from inside the paint. Onuaku had a lot to do with that as he tallied 11 first-half points and used his big body to grab seven rebounds. But the second half was not as easy as the first 20 minutes were.
Four minutes in SU's lead was trimmed to nine, but a rare Rautins two-pointer and a three-point play by Joseph bumped the Orange's advantage back up to 14. With a little over 13 minutes on the clock, a Rautins triple put SU ahead once again by 16 points. But from that point on the Orange would see its lead shrink over the course of the rest of the half.
South Florida pulled to within nine again after a quick 7-0 run capped off by a three-pointer from guard Dominique Jones. The sophomore became a thorn in the side of the Orange as he hit another three to close the gap to seven. Then with six minutes left Jones struck from beyond the arc again to cut the deficit to five. Syracuse raced back down the floor and Flynn found Rautins in the corner who pulled the trigger and knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game to give SU an eight point lead.
It wasn't quite over though. A mini 5-0 scoring run pulled the Bulls to within three points. And with 36 seconds left South Florida went for the tie, but Jones couldn't hit from long range this time. The Bulls inexplicably waited 17 seconds to foul Devendorf who went to the charity stripe and drained two big free throws to seal the road victory.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 59-54 win over South Florida:
- · Talk about a tale of two halves. It looked like the Orange was going to cruise to another fairly easy win. Leading by 16 points and seemingly in complete control, SU let the Bulls creep back into the game. After holding USF to 19 points in the first half, the Orange defense surrendered 35 in the second. It shouldn't have happened, but on the bright side the ‘Cuse led the entire game and there won't be many easy wins in the Big East, even when it's against a team like South Florida.
- · Where was Eric Devendorf in the second half? When the lead was dwindling and the Orange clearly needed an offensive spark, head coach Jim Boeheim decided to keep Ongenaet on the floor instead of going with the three guard lineup which has worked well for SU.
- · After dominating the inside, Onuaku had only two points in the second half and the Orange as a team was cold. SU went 9-of-26 (36 percent) after shooting 50 percent in the first period of play. Also, the Orange put in a dreadful performance from the charity stripe. SU shot 7-of-18 (38.8 percent) for the game, which included a 1-of-9 effort from Onuaku.
- · There were only two players in this entire game that made three-pointers. After missing all 11 attempts in the first half, USF's Dominique Jones hit four from beyond the arc to keep the game close. Syracuse held Jones, the Bulls leading scorer, to only two points at the half. But he would finish with a game-high 17. On the other side, Andy Rautins put in another solid game. He knocked down 4-of-8 from long range and for the third game in a row is the leading scorer for SU with 14 points. The most overlooked part of Rautins' game, though, is his passing skills. He is especially good at using his shot fake to distract defenders which allows him to find guys like Jackson underneath for easy lay-ups.
- · Kris Joseph put in a good effort in his first career start for the Orange. Playing in place of the injured Paul Harris, the frosh chipped in with seven points and three rebounds. Harris was dressed for the game, but the coaching staff decided to sit him out for this one.
Syracuse (14-1, 2-0 Big East) and ranked 11/13 comes back to the Carrier Dome to take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Wednesday, January 7.