Saturday afternoon, Syracuse played an all-too familiar game, having their zone picked apart and getting hammered on the glass by Pittsburgh, dropping an 80-75 road game. The Panthers (14-11, 3-9 ACC) had 25 assists on 26 field goals and owned a 41-25 rebounding advantage as they kept the Orange (16-10, 8-5 ACC) at arm’s length for almost the entire second half.
As they have almost all year on the road, SU struggled on defense, permitting Pitt to shoot 48.1 percent from the floor, including 44.4 percent on three-point tries. The Panthers also grabbed almost half of the possible rebounds on the shots they missed, gathering 15 offensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 16 defensive boards.
The Orange offense looked sloppy in the game’s opening minutes, but they fared better than their foes, hanging seven straight points for a 7-1 lead before Pitt notched their first field goal after four minutes were gone. After the Panthers got into gear, the two teams traded scores and SU held a 15-10 lead just over seven minutes into the game after making seven-of-nine from the floor.
Pittsburgh made their first run of the day at that point, going off on a 14-3 streak. Their strong play propelled the Panthers into a 24-18 lead with just under six minutes left in the opening half.
After Pitt nudged their lead out to seven points just over a minute later, the Orange got a pair of three-point plays from their backcourt to eat up most of the margin. First, John Gillon converted one around the under-four media timeout to make it a four-point game, then Frank Howard slashed in from the left wing as a trailer in transition for his own “three the hard way” to bring SU within 27-26 with just under two minutes left in the half.
Pitt responded by closing the half on an 8-2 run to take a 35-28 intermission lead, then added the first score of the second half to stretch their lead to nine points. Even after Syracuse got into the scorebook, the Panthers controlled play, stretching their lead to 45-32 with just over six-and-a-half minutes elapsed.
The Orange turned to their press, which helped trigger a 7-2 burst that lasted 35 seconds. Howard drove for a lay-up, then Gillon made a steal out of the press and finished with his left hand. Following a Pitt basket, Tyler Lydon drilled a three from the left wing to bring SU to within 47-39 with 12:30 on the clock.
The Pittsburgh lead fluctuated between eight and 12 points for five minutes, ending only when Andrew White III hit a three from above the top of the key and Gillon converted a steal into a lay-up to make it a seven-point game with under seven minutes to play.
Syracuse continued to hang around and eventually shortened the lead. First, they clipped the gap to a half dozen when White III was fouled on a three-point shot and made all three free throws with under four minutes to play. They clipped the margin to 66-61 when Lydon threw down an alley-oop from Gillon just seconds later.
Pitt immediately ballooned the lead out to ten points, but the Orange halved the gap with a 7-2 run capped by a Howard three from the right wing off a kickout pass from Lydon. With 1:10 on the clock, SU once again trailed by five.
A quick foul netted Pitt one foul shot and White III responded by driving the left side for a lay-up to make it a 74-70 game with under a minute to go. Syracuse fouled once more and the Panthers missed the front-end of a one-and-one. On the ensuing possession, Gillon drew a double team and zipped a pass to a wide-open Lydon near the bucket, but the forward could not corral the ball, which skipped out of bounds.
The Orange were forced to foul, but this time Pitt got both shots to fall. White III missed a three and Howard tapped the rebound out to Gillon, who swished a three from the left wing to make it 78-75. SU was forced to foul once more and two more Panther free throws went on the board, effectively ending the game with 3.3 seconds to play.
Andrew White III and John Gillon each tallied 20 points to lead the Orange, the former connecting on three triples. Frank Howard had a personal-best 12 points off the bench. Tyler Lydon and Tyler Roberson each added eight points.
Cameron Johnson was thorn in SU’s side, burying a half dozen three-point shots for the bulk of his game-high 22 points. Michael Young finished the contest one board shy of a double-double, ringing up 21 points and nine boards. Teammates Jamel Artis and Sheldon Jeter each succeeded in reaching double-double status, the former posting 16 points and ten assists and the latter hanging 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Orange face a quick turnaround, as #4 Louisville will visit the Carrier Dome on Monday night. The Cardinals (20-5, 8-4) rebounded from a loss at #13 Virginia earlier in the week to defeat Miami at home on Saturday, 71-66. All of the Cards’ losses this season have come to nationally-ranked teams.
Donovan Mitchell paces Louisville with 15.1 points per game. The Cardinals’ second-leading scorer, Quentin Snider, returned to their starting lineup on Saturday after missing the previous six contests.
Monday’s action is set to get underway at 7:00pm Eastern with ESPN handling the television duties. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.