The South Florida Bulls came ready to play on Wednesday night, but the seniors of the Syracuse Orange had the last word, as SU clinched at least share of the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title and a double-bye in the BIG EAST Tournament by defeating the Bulls 56-48.
USF had their game plan going early, setting the tempo with a 14-2 run and 20-7 lead 8:52 into the opening half. That's when the Orange, known for their runs, scored 26 unanswered points, holding USF scoreless for 11:22.
" We've been winning these games all year ," said Boeheim, " We recognize and make plays and move down the stretch. That's how you win these games. Offensively it has been a little bit of a struggle shooting the basketball; tonight was one of those games. We have to play at this pace, we've got a lot of games like this ahead of us. "
While the Bulls were able to keep it close with a 9-0 run and an 11-0 run in the second half , the seniors stepped up in the late stages. Scoop Jardine finished with15 points, while Kris Joseph finished with 12 points and a game-high nine boards. C.J. Fair scored 13 points, his fourth-consecutive game in double-digits.
" I thought the game came down to Kris making two unbelievable rebounding efforts, " recalled Boeheim, " physical rebounds inside to get the ball back on his drives. He made the two plays of the game right there. A couple good defensive plays too. We were having a bad game and when you're having a bad game you just have to find a way to make the play. He did. "
"In situations like these, they're tough enough wins," said Joseph, "we would rather not be in situations like these, but if you look at this thing it could be a positive. We could be in this situation further down the road and we've been placed in this situation a few times this season. It will help us in the long run."
The Orange will be back in action on Saturday night for a 9 PM tip in Connecticut.