In meeting of two struggling teams, Syracuse struggles a little less

Oshae Brissett
Oshae Brissett goes up for a dunk in the first half of Syracuse's win over Pittsburgh. MANDATORY PHOTO CREDIT: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

On a night when both teams struggled to put together any consistent offense, Syracuse stitched together a pair of runs that provided enough points to snap a four-game slide by defeating Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome, 59-45.  The Orange (13-6, 2-4 ACC) ran off eight straight points before halftime to take the lead, then got eight straight late in the game to build up a healthy cushion over the last-place Panthers (8-11, 0-6).

SU’s defense challenged the ACC’s lowest-scoring offense, twice holding them without a field goal for over seven minutes of action.  All told, Pitt shot just 35 percent from the field on the night and also turned the ball over 18 times.

Syracuse took advantage of those mistakes, scoring 16 points off those Panther miscues.  The Orange also owned a significant advantage inside, rolling up a 28-12 edge in points in the paint.

Frank Howard’s three-pointer opened the scoring and a couple minutes later, Matthew Moyer stuck a long jumper to nudge the SU lead out to four points.  Pitt would knot the game up at 9 on a three with under five minutes off the clock, but that would be their last score for over seven minutes.

Unfortunately for the Orange, their offense was not much better in that time span, mustering only a lay-up from Moyer and a triple from Oshae Brissett to take a five-point lead.  After the squads alternated a pair of scores each, the Panthers posted eight straight points in just over 80 seconds to take their first lead at 22-19.

SU responded with their own 8-0 run in the half’s final three minutes.  Brissett made a short push shot in the paint, then Tyus Battle corralled his own loose ball and flipped in a lay-up to put Syracuse back in front.  Howard added two foul shots and Battle rolled in a ten-footer just before the horn to put the Orange on top, 27-22.

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Battle hit a pull-up from the right elbow to make it ten straight points for SU, but Pittsburgh bounced back with a 7-2 burst to get within 31-29 just over three minutes out of the break.  A Chukwu putback and another trey from Brissett stretched the margin to seven again, but the Panthers clawed back within 37-35 just past the midpoint of the half.

The Syracuse backcourt ran up eight unanswered points to take control of the game once more.  Howard finished a drive with a double clutch basket, then Battle swished a three-pointer off the bounce.  Howard then came up with the steal and went the length of the floor for a three-point play and a 45-35 lead.

A pair of Panther foul shots broke the streak, but the Orange added a half dozen more to their side of the ledger to make it a 14-2 overall run.  Marek Dolezaj fed Chukwu inside for a dunk to get SU going again.  Howard made two from the line, then Battle sliced through the Pitt defense for a lay-up and a 51-37 lead.

Battle would push the lead out to 16 points on a pretty turnaround jumper from the left elbow on the final meaningful Syracuse possession, but Pitt answered with a score before time elapsed for the 59-45 final.

Frank Howard stuffed the stat sheet for the Orange, piling up 18 points, seven rebounds, and five steals.  Tyus Battle rebounded from a slow start by scoring 11 of his 15 points after halftime.  Oshae Brissett chipped in with ten points and Pashcal Chukwu added eight points, all in the second half, and a game-high eight rebounds.

Parker Stewart was the only Pitt player to provide a serious offensive threat, raining in seven three-point shots as he rolled up a game-high 23 points.

SU has over a week to prepare for their next game, a home matchup next Wednesday against Boston College.  The Eagles (13-6, 3-3) have won their last two games and play at Louisville on Sunday prior to their trip to the Carrier Dome.  In addition to their current win streak, BC also has a home win over then-#1 Duke.

Guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman form an explosive combo for Boston College.  Robinson, who averages 18.2 points per game, has topped 20 points eight times this season, while Bowman, who posts 16.4 points per game, poured in 30 points in their win over Duke.  Robinson, Bowman, and Jordan Chatman have each connected on at least 39 triples already this season.

The action will get underway next Wednesday at 7:00pm Eastern on ESPNU.  The telecast will also be online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 469 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.