Brandon Triche had 20 points and James Southerland scored 12 of his 17 in the second half Sunday to help No. 7 Syracuse overcome a slow start and win its Big East road opener 55-44 over South Florida.
C.J. Fair had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Orange (14-1, 2-0), who won for the fourth straight time following a four-point loss 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.
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.
In their first game since coach Jim Boeheim passed Bob Knight for second place on college basketball's career wins list, the Orange fell behind by 17-7 in the opening eight minutes 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.