Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim—who currently has 875 career wins—is one win from tying Adolph Rupp for fourth place all-time among Division I coaches. His team will try to start a season 20-0 for the first time in school history when it hosts Pittsburgh on Monday night.
PITIFUL PANTHERS: In past years, games between Pittsburgh and Syracuse have been battles for supremacy in the Big East. And while SU certainly falls in that category, the Panthers are struggling through one of its worst seasons in years and is currently dead last in the conference. Pittsburgh has lost six straight and is the only team that hasn’t won a Big East game. Things got so bad that the Panthers lost to perennial doormat DePaul on Jan. 5, which had won just three conference games in as many years. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Panthers followed that up by losing 62-39 to Rutgers at the Petersen Center, the most lopsided loss in the history of the arena and the fewest points Pittsburgh has scored since 1969. The main problems have come from the offensive side of the ball, where Pittsburgh is shooting just 46.2 percent from the field. The Panthers are also averaging just 71.6 points per game, which is 112th in the NCAA.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS: Look no further than Ashton Gibbs to highlight Pitt’s offensive struggles. The Big East preseason player of the year leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game, but his shooting a career worst 38.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from downtown. Compare that to 46.8 and 49.0 percent, respectively, last season. Another reason for the Panthers’ woes has been an injury to point guard Tray Woodall, who has been out with an groin/abdominal strain. He’s appeared in only eight games this season, and only one since November, but is averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 assists. He is not expected to play against SU.
IN PITTSBURGH’S LAST GAME: Though Pittsburgh took a 29-24 lead into halftime against Marquette, the Golden Eagles rallied behind 18 points from Darius Johnson-Odom to win 62-57. There were positives for Pitt in the loss, though, as Gibbs showed signs of life with a career-high 29 points. If the Orange beats Pittsburgh on Monday, it will be the first time that Pitt has lost seven straight since February of 1996.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Syracuse holds a 61-38 lead in the all-time series, but the Panthers have won the last five matchups. The last time these two teams met was on Jan. 17, 2011. Pittsburgh scored the first 19 points in the game en route to a 74-66 win. CJ Fair had 16 points and nine rebounds to pace the Orange.
GAME INFORMATION: Mon., Jan 16. 7:30 p.m. ESPN. Syracuse, NY.