A quick take on Syracuse’s dramatic 59-54 against old rival Pitt on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: In what can only be described as a classic Big East game played in the ACC, Pittsburgh and Syracuse played a low-scoring, toughly contested defensive battle to the bitter end. Syracuse led by as many as 10 early in the second half and appeared poised to bury the Panthers. But Lamar Patterson caught fire from distance, draining three consecutive 3-pointers and that propelled Pitt to a 52-49 lead with 2:39 left. Syracuse was not deterred, and a pair of Tyler Ennis layups capped a late 6-0 run as the Orange took a 55-52 lead with 32 seconds left. From there, Pitt missed three 3s in the final 1:15 as the Orange escaped to take sole possession of first place atop the ACC.
ANALYSIS: Pittsburgh is one of the few teams in the country that appears comfortable probing and attacking the 2-3 zone. The Panthers made sure they worked the shot clock and took a high percentage shot. Even when those shots weren’t falling, the the Panthers crashed the boards, badly outrebounding Syracuse, 35-24, including collecting an impressive 16 offensive rebounds. Despite Pitt’s relative success against the zone, SU continues to shine in adversity. This was the sixth game this season for Syracuse that was decided in the final minutes of the game, and the Orange continue to trot out a stable of players that can deliver in the clutch. Today, it was Ennis, who was brilliant down the stretch and, on top of the pair of late layups, he also hit two key free throws with 5 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
HERO: Ennis finished with 16 points and three assists, with six of those points coming in the final two minutes. Rakeem Christmas’ interior offensive is rapidly improving, and he hit a couple of hook shots to finish a perfect 4-4 from the field for 10 points to go along with 4 rebounds. Patterson, who, along with CJ Fair is a favorite for ACC Player of the Year, nearly single-handedly took down the second ranked team in the country, finishing with 18 points, hitting 4 second-half 3s.
ZERO: A couple of concerning signs for Syracuse, starting with their 3-point shooting. Cooney has been trending downward recently, and wasn’t much better today, shooting just 2-for-8. Collectively, the Orange were 4-15 from downtown. SU could’ve also put the game away earlier by controlling the defensive glass. Pitt’s Talib Zanna and Cameron Wright accounted for 13 offensive rebounds. On Pitt’s side, missed free throws spoiled a potential upset, as they went 13-24 from the line.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Orange have a week off before heading down to Florida to play Miami on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2014 at 1 p.m. TV: CBS.