A quick take on Syracuse’s tough 83-77 defeat against Pittsburgh on a “Blackout” Saturday afternoon in front of the usual raucous Oakland Zoo near sellout crowd of 12,508 at Petersen Events Center:
WHAT HAPPENED: Playing its first game since the university announced a self-imposed ban barring this year’s team from post-season play, and while awaiting other imminent penalties from the NCAA, Syracuse (15-8, 6-4) led by 10 in the first half before Pitt (16-8, 5-5), playing in alternate black jerseys, pulled to within 40-38 at halftime. In the second half the lead went back and forth over the final 9:00 of play before the Panthers put the game away with a couple of late clutch baskets, including guard Jamel Artis’s killer three-pointer with just under 1:00 to play.
ANALYSIS: In a typically physical SU-Pitt matchup similar to what transpired dating back to Big East days, Rakeem Christmas was able to move in and around the basket for short shots, and Michael Gbinije was able to slash to the basket making up for a foul-plagued Trevor Cooney (12 points) to lead the Orange offense. Pitt stayed close and went ahead behind the outside shooting of swingman Chris Jones, and Artis keeping the SU zone honest, until Pitt finally wore down the ‘Cuse “D” in the final minutes putting the game away with a couple of foul shots for the final six point margin.
HEROES: With no post season to play for, the last nine games of Christmas’s career will be enormous, and he continued his all-conference season against the Panthers scoring with soft hooks and jumpers finishing with a co-game high 23 points and 12 rebounds. Gbinije also scored 23 points.
ZERO: Syracuse’s perimeter defense in the zone struggled as Pitt continuously fired away from beyond the three-point line hitting seven in the game, with the trio of Jones, Artis and big man James Robinson combining for 48 points.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse finishes up its annual home-and-home series traveling to Boston College on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at Conte Forum. The ‘Cuse beat BC 69-61 at the Dome on Jan. 20, the only game this season in which all five Orange starters finished with double figure points. The Eagles (9-13, 1-9) played tough at home Saturday afternoon, but fell to No. 12 North Carolina 79-68. Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET / TV: ESPN2.