No. 17 Syracuse 72, South Florida 49
Jim Boeheim is not so sure Syracuse learned much from a four-game losing streak. He just believes the No. 17 Orange has played well in bouncing back from the sudden slide following an 18-0 start.
''I don't particularly think anything helps you when you lose,'' the coach said Saturday, after Rick Jackson scored a season-high 21 points and Kris Joseph added 14 to pace a 72-49 Big East rout of struggling South Florida.
''I think you can learn by losing one. I don't think you have to lose four. But this league is like that. It's the league we're in,'' Boeheim said. ''Everybody recognizes it's a tough league. Everybody understands that, but when you lose they don't understand it. ... They say they get it, but they don't get it. It's a very difficult league.''
Jackson also grabbed 12 rebounds for his 16th double-double for the Orange (20-4, 7-4), who've now won at least 20 games in all but two of 35 seasons under Boeheim, whose 849 career victories rank second among active Division I coaches behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
The Orange built on momentum from a victory over No. 6 Connecticut that stopped a four-game losing streak, limiting cold-shooting USF (8-16, 2-9) to 35 percent from the field, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range.
''It's still nice to do. We're very happy to get there,'' Boeheim said of notching another 20-win season, extending his Division I record to 33 - three more than Dean Smith had at North Carolina. ''We like to get there early, so that is good.''
Jarrid Famous led South Florida with 14 points. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 10 for the Bulls, who trailed 37-28 at halftime and didn't get closer than that the rest of the way.
Dion Waiters joined Jackson and Joseph in double figures for Syracuse, which held UConn to 36-percent shooting last Wednesday to stop a sudden slide that included home losses to Villanova and Seton Hall and on the road to Pittsburgh and Marquette.
''We were at a dark point. We just had to get out of there,'' Jackson said. ''Right now we're playing well. Guys are confident. I think we're all playing how we're supposed to be playing.''
Playing at the half-filled St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa instead of at its usual 10,000-seat, on-campus arena, South Florida stayed close until Waiters came off the bench and made a 3-pointer to begin a 12-0 spurt that put the Orange in control.
Brandon Triche's jumper finished an 18-5 surge that put Syracuse up 30-28, and the outcome was never in doubt.
''I know they're a good team, but I thought we could have played a lot better,'' USF coach Stan Heath said. ''We just didn't have what it took today.''
Jackson, who was 8 of 13 from the field and 5 for 8 from the foul line, had a dunk and layup during a 10-3 burst to begin the second half. South Florida trimmed the lead to 10 on two separate occasions only to watch the Orange pull away for good after Famous made two free throws to get the Bulls within 51-41 with 10:28 to go.
''He's a load. He does that to everybody, so it's not like I didn't watch film and see it before,'' Heath said of Jackson. ''But he did a great job.''
Despite being off to another slow start in the Big East, South Florida has been competitive in almost every game. Although Saturday's 23-point margin of defeat was the biggest of the season, 13 of the Bulls' 16 losses have been by 9 points or less.
USF fell to 11-90 all-time against ranked opponents, including 0-7 this season, before an announced crowd of 10,051 bolstered by a large turnout by Orange-clad Syracuse fans. Attendance more than the doubled USF's previous season-best for a home game - 4,510 against Villanova.
Boeheim wasn't surprised by the support.
''They all live down here. They're not stupid. They come down here in the winter time. ... I bet there was 7,000 people out there, maybe 8 (thousand) from Syracuse,'' the coach said. ''Today was one of the best crowds I've seen down here. Kind of like a home game, a little bit.''