For the second time in a dozen days, Syracuse put together a second half run that gave them enough breathing room to defeat Pittsburgh. With the score tied at 40, the Orange (15-6, 4-4 ACC) ran off seven straight points to trigger a 12-3 run that gave them enough of a cushion to hold on for a 60-55 road win over the Panthers (8-14, 0-9).
SU’s offense struggled for most of the game, but a surprising hero emerged from their bench. Freshman center Bourama Sidibe posted his best game at Syracuse, setting personal standards of 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Fortunately for the Orange, their defense was strong, holding Pitt to only 27.7 percent shooting from the field on the day, including blocking 11 shots as a team. SU made barely 35 percent of their shots from the floor in the game, but connected on 13-of-27 (48.1 percent) in the second half to salvage the win. Syracuse also made hay at the foul line, making 19-of-26 free throws.
With the Orange offense struggling early, the Panthers needed a little over six minutes to build a 14-6 lead. After reaching that point, SU’s defense tightened the screws and Pittsburgh made one of their next 17 field goal attempts.
The Panther drought allowed Syracuse to string together an 11-1 run. Tyus Battle stuck from the left side and Bourama Sidibe followed that with a score down low. Following a Pitt free throw, Battle connected on two from the stripe and rattled home a three from the left corner that knotted the score. Frank Howard finished the streak with a steal and fast break opportunity that he turned into two foul shots for a 17-15 Orange lead with under seven minutes left in the opening half.
Pittsburgh got a jumper to end almost nine minutes without a score to tie the game again, but SU hung the next five points. The Panthers, however, beat the buzzer for a contested three-pointer to draw within 22-20 at halftime.
Marek Dolezaj hit a jumper just inside the left elbow coming out of the break to push the lead to four, but that was the biggest lead Syracuse would hold during the opening 12 minutes out of the break. Pitt briefly grabbed a one-point lead, but Syracuse regained control right after.
With the score at 40 a side and under nine minutes to play, Oshae Brissett scored on a putback and added a trey off a pass from Dolezaj. Dolezaj then slipped an interior bounce pass to Sidibe, who scored to make it seven straight points for the Orange and forced a Panther time out.
Pitt got a three when action resumed, but Battle answered with one of his own. Dolezaj then connected with Sidibe again for a lay-up to complete the 12-3 run that gave SU a 52-43 advantage with just over 2:30 to play.
The Panthers got back within six, but could get no closer until a three-pointer in the final seconds closed the scoring.
Bourama Sidibe complemented his 18-point, 16-rebound double-double with three blocked shots. Tyus Battle was the only other SU player to crack double figures, finishing with 14 points. Oshae Brissett added nine points and eight rebounds while Marek Dolezaj aided the Syracuse cause with seven points.
Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with his own double-double of 18 points and 13 boards. Marcus Carr also broke into double figures for Pitt, finishing with 16 points. Khameron Davis had seven points and Parker Stewart six.
The Orange aim to extend their win streak to four on Wednesday when they play at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (10-10, 3-4) have lost three straight games and will host #18 Clemson on Sunday prior to the visit from SU.
Four different players average double digits in scoring for GT, led by Josh Okogie at 17.7 points per outing. Jose Alvarado (13.2 pts/game), Tadric Jackson (12.6 pts/game), and Ben Lammers (11.8 pts/game) are the other players posting double digits. Lammers also leads the Jackets in rebounding and blocked shots, averaging almost three swats per contest.
Syracuse and Georgia Tech will square off at 8:00pm Eastern Wednesday night. The game will be televised in certain markets by the ACC Network and the telecast will be available on ESPN3.com.