Tyus Battle sits, but Syracuse rallies for win over Pittsburgh

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Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim watches from the sidelines. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Buddy Boeheim picked a good time to post a career-high in scoring. Of course, since he was promoted into the starting lineup with Tyus Battle shelved by a bruised hip suffered in the regular season finale on Saturday, it was a little bit easier for Boeheim to pile up a team-high 20 points in a 73-59 Syracuse victory over Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament.

Boeheim, Frank Howard, and Elijah Hughes poured in 12 three-pointers in 23 attempts to power the Orange (20-12), combining for 56 points in the game. That perimeter firepower was too much for the Panthers (14-19), who held a six-point halftime lead, but could only muster 23 points after the break.

The SU defense was stifling after the intermission, limiting Pitt to just 25.8 percent shooting from the field. Meanwhile, they picked up their play on offense, connecting on just over 50 percent of their shots both inside and outside the arc.

The game was tight for the first three-and-a-half minutes, but Pittsburgh opened things with seven straight points while holding Syracuse scoreless for four minutes to build a six-point lead. The Panthers pushed their lead out to 24-16 with less than eight minutes left in the opening half.

The Orange would halve that lead, highlighted by Elijah Hughes turning in a four-point play to trim the gap to 26-22. Pitt responded with seven of the game’s next eight points for the first double-digit lead of the night at 33-23.

The SU offense shook off the doldrums, posting seven straight points. Oshae Brissett scored inside, then Jalen Carey added a reverse lay-up on a fast break. Hughes tacked on another three to bring Syracuse within 33-30 with under 90 seconds on the clock.

The Panthers responded with a three and carried a 36-30 lead into halftime.

Hughes scored the first five points of the second half to clip the lead to a single point, then Buddy Boeheim chased a Pittsburgh triple with eight straight points for the Orange. Boeheim hit a short jumper, then added a pair of shots from long range to give SU a 43-39 lead less than four minutes out of the break.

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The Panthers knotted the score, but Syracuse responded with nine straight points that triggered a 14-3 run. Hughes hit another three and Howard swished one from the left wing, giving the Orange five threes in just over seven minutes of second half play. Boeheim curled in a putback while being fouled and added the foul shot to give SU a 52-43.

Pitt stopped the streak with a triple, but Howard beat the shot clock with a jumper from the left side and Paschal Chukwu tapped in a miss for the heavy lifting of a three-point play. Chukwu’s foul shot gave Syracuse a 57-46 lead just past the midpoint of the second half.

The Panthers clawed back within seven a couple minutes later, but the Orange scored eight of the game’s next nine points to put it away. Chukwu banked in an offensive board, and Boeheim hit one of two free throws. Howard swished a three from the left corner, then Dolezaj connected on a 17-footer after a Pittsburgh foul shot to make it 66-52 with a little over three minutes left.

The margin never went to single digits again.

Buddy Boeheim led the way for the Orange with 20 points, including 15 in the second half. Frank Howard and Elijah Hughes each added 18 points. Howard hit 4-of-7 shots from beyond the arc and Hughes knocked down 5-of-9 threes. Paschal Chukwu was a strong contributor, finishing with seven points, nine rebounds, and six blocked shots, five of them coming in the second half.

Jared Wilson-Frame paced all players with 24 points, drilling 8-of-16 triples. Sidy N’Dir was the only other Panther to reach double figures, finishing with ten points. Malik Ellison added eight points to the Pittsburgh effort.

By virtue of their win, the Orange advance to take on the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils (26-5) in the tournament quarterfinals. SU split with Duke this season, as each team won on the other’s home court. The Blue Devils, who ended the season ranked #5 in the country, were atop the national polls for each matchup.

Syracuse’s road win was by a 95-91 score in overtime and Tyus Battle led the way with 32 points. Duke’s victory at the Carrier Dome was by a 75-65 score with Battle against leading the Orange, this time with 16 points. The Blue Devils were shorthanded in each affair, missing Cam Reddish during the first game and Zion Williamson in the latter.

Tip-off will be at approximately 9:30pm Eastern on ESPN and the telecast will be available on the ESPN app.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 548 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.