Extra offensive opportunities and an impressive outing from forward Rick Jackson helped No. 17 Syracuse cruise past ailing USF, 72-49, on Saturday afternoon at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Orange (20-4, 7-4) outrebounded USF 41-27 and scored 13 second-chance points to counteract the Bulls’ best defensive efforts.
“We just gave up so many points that way, it really bothers you,” coach Stan Heath said. “I thought we could have played a lot better. We just didn’t have what it took today.”
USF (8-16, 2-9) led in the first half 11-10, but went scoreless for the next four-and-a-half minutes. Coming out of the locker room with a nine-point halftime deficit, the Bulls corrected their rebounding troubles but failed to take care of the basketball, committing four turnovers in the first four minutes of the second half.
Syracuse built an insurmountable lead by scoring 14 points off turnovers in the second half. The Bulls made plays on defense, recording seven steals and six blocks, but spent most of their time on offense passing around an impenetrable Syracuse zone defense.
“Their length and athleticism bothered us a little bit,” forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. “They pretty much dominated us on the boards on both ends.”
Fitzpatrick had another efficient game with 10 points and six rebounds, and forward Jarrid Famous had a strong game back after injury, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Yet, the team looked rushed and bothered offensively. The Bulls shot 35 percent from the field and a dismal 13 percent from 3-point range.
Junior forward Augustus Gilchrist shot poorly from the field for the third straight game. The Bulls’ leading scorer has made just eight of his last 35 shot attempts.
“That’s a big weapon that we’re missing out on,” Heath said of Gilchrist. “We have to watch some film and get him back into rhythm because he’s probably our No. 1 option offensively.”
Syracuse forward Kris Joseph disrupted the Bulls on both ends, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals. USF’s Jawanza Poland struggled to make an impact, scoring just eight points and fouling out with less than four minutes to play.
In their remaining seven games, the Bulls will face a ranked opponent at least four times, with three of those games coming against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 10.
USF gets a break from playing ranked conference foes when it hosts Marquette in the Sun Dome on Wednesday at 7 p.m.