A quick take on Syracuse’s painful 72-71 loss against Pittsburgh, the initial game of the second round of the ACC Tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington on Wednesday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: Following numerous delays to fix a malfunctioning shot clock at the outset, Pittsburgh (21-10) got its game in gear, and survived a valiant late Syracuse (19-13) comeback that ended when Trevor Cooney’s three point shot hit the rim and bounced away at the buzzer.
ANALYSIS: As it turned out, the early ‘Cuse 10 point lead was Fool’s Gold, as Pitt stormed back with a 13-3 run to go up at the half, and the far deeper Panthers carried that momentum over from scoring the first bucket of the second half to slowly but surely wearing the Orange down with aggressive defense, and doing what they do best versus the Orange 2-3 zone, slice and dice it to get good shots at the basket. Syracuse made one final comeback over the final 3:00 by turning up the pressure to erase a 14 point deficit, but Trevor Cooney, who had been sitting on the bench for some 11 minutes of the second half, did not look sharp in taking the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer that did not fall.
HEROES: Pittsburgh unknowns Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther helped bring the Panthers back from an early deficit and were stellar throughout, combining for an enormous 37 points, and 11 rebounds.
ZERO: It was an uninspired effort for much of the afternoon until a late gasp with the team’s NCAA hopes on the line, in what turned out to be the third consecutive end of a regular season in which the Orange faded down the stretch dropping five of six games. That’s a troublesome pattern after the glory run between 2009-13. Also, consider that in 2017 SU will still be seeking its first win in the ACC Tournament.
WHAT’S NEXT: Likely a mega dose of disappointment. The loss to Pitt would seemingly knock the Orange out of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the official word won’t come until the “Selection Sunday” show this Sun. March 13. The live program has been moved up and expanded to two hours this year. Selection Sunday Program Time: 5:30-7:30 ET / TV: CBS / Stream: March Madness App.