Superior shooting has helped Syracuse to another impressive start while overcoming some sloppy play, but coach Jim Boeheim still isn’t happy. A visit from South Florida might help.
The seventh-ranked Orange look for a more disciplined performance while stepping back into Big East play Sunday against the Bulls.
Syracuse (14-1, 1-1) opened the season with 13 consecutive victories before falling 82-72 to Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 2. The team rebounded Wednesday with a 74-57 win over Memphis.
The Orange’s outstanding start, which comes a year after it opened 16-1, has been aided by its 13-0 finish in non-conference play - its first unbeaten season against teams outside the Big East since going 8-0 in 1993-94.
Still, Boeheim wasn’t happy with his team’s 17 turnovers against the Tigers.
“I can’t explain the turnovers, I really can’t,” Boeheim said. “We haven’t made these kinds of turnovers all year. It wasn’t pressure. It looked like we were throwing it to the other team. It’s hard to explain how bad we were (Wednesday) and won the game. We’re not playing like a good basketball team.”
Syracuse averages 16.0 turnovers - most in the Big East - and it overcame 20 giveaways to beat Seton Hall 80-73 on Dec. 29.
Strong shooting is one way the Orange have been able to overcome their sloppy play. They lead the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.8 and are atop the Big East with 85.7 points per game. Syracuse made 54.5 percent of its shots Wednesday after being held to a season-low 42.4 percent against Pitt.
“Just getting better looks I guess,” said guard Andy Rautins, who made 4 of 8 shots for 11 points and committed five turnovers against Memphis. “I can’t really explain the other day.”
Wesley Johnson continues to be a force in the paint for Syracuse, shooting 57.6 percent from the field while leading the team with averages of 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. The junior forward had 19 points and seven boards against Memphis, but also tied for the team lead with five turnovers, giving him 25 over the last seven games after totaling 14 in the previous eight.
Syracuse has won five of six meetings with South Florida (10-4, 0-2), including all three at the Carrier Dome.
The Bulls have had little success on the road since joining the Big East in 2005, losing 33 of 35 while dropping nine in a row, including a 73-52 loss at Louisville in their conference opener Dec. 30. They last won a Big East road game when they beat DePaul 80-58 on Jan. 10, 2009.
South Florida had a chance for an upset Tuesday, but it failed to successfully inbound the ball with 1.9 seconds left and lost 74-73 to Notre Dame.
“I just hate that it had to be settled that way, but it is what it is,” coach Stan Heath said. “Unfortunately, that is a play that we execute in practice and we are at least able to get a catch or a touch. I think most of that was just fatigue. Those guys gave their hearts out there and towards the end they were just operating on fumes we just weren’t able to execute at that end.”
Dominique Jones is looking for another strong performance after scoring 26 points Tuesday, a vast improvement from his season-low five points against the Cardinals.
The junior guard, who leads South Florida with 18.1 points and 4.6 assists per game, has thrived against Syracuse, averaging 23.0 points over three games.