And once South Florida rallied to close within a point, Jardine put his head down to make sure the second-ranked Orange wouldn't have to mount another comeback.
Jardine scored 15 points to lead Syracuse to a 56-48 win over the Bulls, with his most important basket coming with 4:41 left. With the Orange clinging to a 47-46 lead, Jardine drove to the right post, was fouled on the way up, scored and then completed the three-point play.
"That play, I rejected the screen and knew I had (Augustus) Gilchrist on an angle where I could go try to get fouled," Jardine said. "When I got fouled, I was still in control to make the shot. And the biggest thing I was worried about was making the free throw, and I made it."
The Orange (28-1, 15-1 Big East) overcame an ice-cold start, in which they missed 12 of their first 14 shots, and overcame a 13-point deficit for their eighth straight win. Syracuse matched school records for most regular-season and conference victories -- both set in 2009-10.
"Offensively, it's been a struggle shooting the basketball, and tonight was one of those nights," coach Jim Boeheim said. "But we've been in games like this all year. Our veteran guys have made plays all year down the stretch. That's how you win these games."
Anthony Collins scored 16 points for the Bulls, who endured a 12:33 stretch without a point spanning halftime. South Florida (17-11, 10-5) had a four-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 1-9 against Syracuse.
As hot as the Bulls were in opening the game by hitting eight of their first 11 attempts to open a 20-7 lead, their offense evaporated just as quickly.
"I loved the way we started out. We couldn't have written a better script," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "But you knew. They're so good, they were going to make a run. You just hoped it wasn't as long."
Long might be an understatement.
While the Bulls missed 13 straight shots, the Orange took control with a 26-0 run that began when Dion Waiters drove the lane and fed Fair, who finished the play with a dunk, cutting the lead to 20-9 with 8:27 left in the first half.
The Orange closed the period by scoring the final 17 points, and then opened the second half with 9-0 run, capped by Jardine scoring on a transition drive after Collins had a pass bounce off his hands.
Hugh Robertson finally scored on a layup 2:23 into the second half after Collins forced a turnover.
It was then the Bulls' turn for a comeback. After trailing by 14 points, South Florida got within one with 6:25 left, when Collins hit a 10-footer. They failed to capitalize on their next two possessions, which finished with a turnover by Collins -- he finished with eight -- and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick missing a 3-point attempt.
"I like the way we were in the locker room, we were disappointed," Heath said. "We thought we just let it get away. We didn't think we played our 'A' game. Too many sloppy turnovers."
The Bulls are known for the defense, entering the game leading the Big East in allowing opponents 58.2 points. Trouble is, South Florida also ranks last in the conference in scoring, averaging 61.1 points.
Down 24-20 at halftime, South Florida held an opponent under 30 points in the first half for the 24th time in 28 games. And yet it was their lack of offense that cost the Bulls, who finished 20 of 52 from the field after opening 9 of 11.
The Orange forced 18 turnovers and had a 41-31 edge in rebounding.
"We don't panic. We don't lose our confidence, no matter how much we might be struggling," Joseph said. "We have a lot of guys who can make plays and we believe it's all going to turn out right in the end."
This marked only the second time this season the Orange trailed by double digits. And the only other time that happened came in a 67-58 loss at Notre Dame on Jan. 21.
The Orange wore their one-time only Nike-designed uniforms, designated for teams who have won a national title. The jerseys were gray -- officially, platinum -- with an orange stripe down each side.
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