Syracuse holds on for road win against lowly Panthers

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Feb 2, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim reacts on the sidelines against the Syracuse Orange during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While Syracuse had a few runs in the first half, it was their big second half burst that enabled them to hold off a charge at Pittsburgh Saturday night.  The Orange (16-6, 7-2 ACC) stitched together a 16-5 streak in the second half to answer a run of 11 straight points by the Panthers (12-10, 2-7) that made it a three-point game.  That response enabled SU to claim a 65-56 road win.

Pitt climbed within 39-36 just under seven minutes into the second half, but Syracuse needed five minutes to regain control.  Four different players scored in the span, all of them notching a basket to close the streak with nine straight points.

Just like in the first matchup between the two squads, the 2-3 zone of the Orange caused a world of difficulty for Pittsburgh.  That defense permitted the hosts to make only 31.6 percent of their shots, including a meager 22.7 percent on three-point shots.  That defensive effort helped SU get the win when they shot just over 32 percent from the field after halftime.

Trailing in the opening minutes, Syracuse posted a 9-1 run to jump in front.  Frank Howard made a pair from the line and Paschal Chukwu converted a lob pass into a lay-up.  Oshae Brissett made one foul shot and, after a Panther free throw, notched two buckets for an 11-5 Orange lead just under eight minutes into the game.

Just over three minutes later, SU strung together nine straight points for a double-digit lead.  Chukwu finished an alley-oop from Marek Dolezaj and Buddy Boeheim connected from well beyond the arc.  Dolezaj and Brissett both hit jumpers in the paint to push the Syracuse lead to 22-11.

Pitt responded with four points, but Syracuse answered with nine more, all from long distance.  Howard drilled a triple from the left wing and Dolezaj followed with one on the next possession, forcing a Panther time out.  Elijah Hughes got into the act on the next Orange possession, swishing a three from the left wing for a 31-15 lead.

The Panthers climbed back within 35-22 at intermission and strung together nine straight points in the opening minutes of the second half, forcing Jim Boeheim to call timeout for SU.  After the action resumed, Pitt tacked on another score to get within 39-36 less than seven minutes into the half. The Panthers had another chance to shave points off the lead but missed two free throws.

» Related: Syracuse still firmly in NCAA Tournament in latest bracketology projections

That missed opportunity seemed to breathe life into Syracuse, as they responded with two free throws from Brissett and a Tyus Battle floater in the paint.  Howard chased a Pittsburgh basket with a left corner three, then followed a three from the hosts with another one of his own.

The latter triple started a stretch of nine straight points as Brissett and Battle scored inside and Hughes swished from just inside the arc in the left corner for a 55-41 advantage with eight minutes to play.

The Panthers were able to get within seven with under three minutes to go, but the Orange were able to run out the clock to claim the victory.

Oshae Brissett led all players in the game in both scoring and rebounding, posting an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double.  Frank Howard connected on a trio of treys as he finished with 15 points. Paschal Chukwu was the only other SU player to reach double figures, landing on ten points.

Terrell Brown paced the Panthers with 16 points and Xavier Johnson backed him with 14.  Jared Wilson-Frame hit four three-point shots for his dozen points and Malik Ellison had nine points and 11 rebounds.

Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome for their first home game in a dozen days when they welcome #25 Florida State on Tuesday night.  The Seminoles (16-5, 4-4), who spent the first two months of the season ranked and peaked at #9, broke a recent three-game slide and will bring a three-game win streak with them.

FSU runs with a deep squad, as ten players average double figures in minutes and eight of them average at least six points per game.  Forward Mfiondu Kabengele leads the way with 13.0 points per game and has scored at least 15 points in eight games this season.

The ‘Noles got the better of the Orange last year in Tallahassee, winning a double-overtime game by a 101-90 score.  Battle had a career-high 37 points for SU while 7’4” center Christ Koumadje dominated inside for Florida State, tallying 23 points.

Syracuse and Florida State will tip off at 8:00pm Eastern.  The game will be available on television in certain local markets and that telecast will also be available online at ESPN3.com and through the ESPN app.  

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 561 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.