Once again, Syracuse trailed late and rallied to get back into the game, but, once again, said rally fell short. This time, it ended any hopes at an ACC Tournament title and may have also ended any hopes at an NCAA Tournament invitation, as Trevor Cooney’s three-pointer just before the buzzer was well short, sentencing the Orange (19-13) to a 72-71 loss to Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament second round.
The Panthers (21-10) double-teamed Michael Gbinije with 6.6 seconds to go, forcing the inbounds pass to Cooney and SU needing to go the length of the court. Cooney, who had sat for nearly 15 minutes prior to being put back into the game with 6.6 seconds remaining, dribbled upcourt and released a three-point shot from well behind the arc with two seconds left. The shot clunked off the rim and fell harmlessly away.
Fitting a game decided by a single point, both teams were pretty even in the statistical breakdown. Pitt shot 48.2 percent from the field while SU made 47.2 percent of their attempts. Syracuse finished with one rebound more than the Panthers, but had two more turnovers. The Orange shot well from deep, hitting 6-of-8 in the second half to reach 52.6 percent from three-point range on the day.
The start of the game was choppy, as there were eight clock malfunctions in the opening minutes. Almost three minutes into the game, SU got the opening bucket when Michael Gbinije found Malachi Richardson behind the defense in transition for a lay-up and a 2-0 lead.
The squads mostly traded scores for the next several minutes with the Orange able to extend their lead when they managed consecutive scores twice and occasionally offset a Pitt bucket with a three-pointer. The first set of back-to-back scores came on a pair of threes, one by Gbinije from the top of the key and the other banked in by Cooney while off-balance near the left corner.
The second set came a few minutes later. The first of those scores was Cooney driving and dishing to DaJuan Coleman for a dunk. Shortly after, Tyler Lydon softly dropped in a missed shot for two more points and a 17-8 Orange lead.
Syracuse was able to extend that lead to ten points on two occasions. Gbinije came clear on the right wing and got a generous bounce on a three-pointer for a 22-12 lead, then Roberson added two charity shots for a 24-14 lead with under six minutes left in the opening half.
Pitt woke up, though, and ripped off a 17-3 run, including eight consecutive points in the middle of the stretch. The 8-0 segment knotted the game at 26 a side and the full burst put the Panthers in front, 31-27, with under two minutes left in the half. Frank Howard stopped the bleeding for the Orange, though, zipping a pick-and-roll pass to Coleman for a lay-up and the final score of the half.
SU traded markers with Pittsburgh in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Panthers then blew the game open with a 12-0 run for a 48-34 lead with five-and-half minutes elapsed. The Orange were able to strike back with a 10-2 run in less than two-and-a-half minutes, closing with eight straight points.
First, Richardson set up Coleman for a two-handed slam. After a Pitt basket, Lydon connected on two foul shots. Howard drove and zipped a cross-court pass to Gbinije for a three-point-play, then Richardson drilled a three from the right wing to draw Syracuse within a half dozen with 11:25 to play.
The two squads played almost even for a half dozen minutes, then Pitt posted another streak, this one of seven straight points, for a 66-54 lead with 4:27 to go. SU coach Jim Boeheim responded with a timeout, instructing his team to use its full court press.
Amping up the speed helped the Orange greatly.
Howard first corralled a loose ball and shoveled it to Roberson for a lay-in. SU got a stop, then Richardson hit a three from the top of the key. After another stop, Lydon drained a long two from the left corner on an inbound pass to pull the Orange within 66-61.
A pair of Pitt free throws stopped the streak of Syracuse points at seven, but they would respond with seven more markers.
Howard drove and pitched the ball to the left wing for a Gbinije three. Howard then got a steal and the ball eventually made its way to Richardson, who drove and was fouled. His foul shots shaved the margin to two points. Roberson then jumped in the passing lane on a ball reversal and poked the ball away. Roberson chased it down and passed ahead to Gbinije, who dunked to tie the game at 68 a side with 1:59 on the clock.
Each team failed to score on their next possession, but Pitt then converted twice in a row for a four-point lead. Gbinije responded by dribbling the length of the floor after an inbound pass and swishing a right wing three to clip the Panther lead to 72-71.
SU pressed, but could not get a steal. Forced to foul, they sent Sheldon Jeter to the line for a one-and-one. Jeter missed and the ball went out of bounds with 6.6 seconds to play. The ball was awarded to Syracuse, with the call confirmed by replay, setting the scene for Cooney’s final miss.
Michael Gbinije tied for game-high honors, pouring in 24 points, including hitting 4-of-6 from behind the three-point line. Malachi Richardson rallied in the second half to score 11 of his 13 points. DaJuan Coleman had probably his best performance for the Orange, as he had an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Orange, as well as a pair of steals and a pair of blocked shots. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Lydon each chipped in nine points, Cooney getting all of his via the three-ball.
Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther were a force off Pittsburgh’s bench. Johnson poured in 24 points and Luther added 13. James Robinson scored a dozen points for the Panthers, including their final four that put them on top. Jamel Artis chipped in with ten points and Michael Young had nine.
Syracuse now waits for Sunday, when they will find out if they will receive an NCAA Tournament bid.