A quick take on Syracuse’s most uneven 69-61 victory over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, in front of an announced crowd of 23,711 at the Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse won its fifth straight game to continue to move up the ACC standings, but it took the entire second half to shake off the young and still developing Panthers. Up by 11 at the half, Pittsburgh (13-7, 4-5) closed to three down with 32.5 to play, before the ‘Cuse had just enough points and defensive stops to hang on and avoid an embarrassing defeat.
ANALYSIS: There was breaking news in the first half when ACC scoring leader Elijah Hughes (19.7 ppg) was scoreless, and Joe Girard missed just his third free throw of the season (52-of-55), the two combining for just two points as Syracuse (13-7, 6-3) led 32-21. Hughes (10-points) got going 3:00 into the second half to help keep SU ahead the rest of the way, but it wasn’t easy. Pitt got back into the game on follow-up opportunities offensively, and hitting its foul shots (14-of-20). Buddy Boeheim nearly outscored the entire Pitt team with 18 first-half points, but hit just one trey in the second half to finish with a game-high 21-points.
HERO: The continued strong play underneath of late (36 points in the paint vs. Pitt) was exemplified by Marek Dolezaj. The junior forward’s more aggressive game offensively has stood out along with his usual hustle. Dolezaj finished with 17-points, 7-rebounds, 3-assists, a block, a steal, and hit all 7 of his foul shots. Quincey Guerrier came off the bench with a flourish to pick-up for the foul-plagued Bourama Sidibe, contributing big-time with 10-points and 8-rebounds.
ZERO: .It was a day in which the Orange, other than Boeheim, struggled from beyond the arc (5-of-20). SU was also sloppy with the basketball committing 13 turnovers which led to 15 Pitt points to help keep them in the game.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse goes back out on the ACC road playing Clemson Tues., Jan. 28 at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. Last season, the teams split their home/away series each winning at home, while the Orange have won four of seven games against the Tigers in ACC play. Clemson (10-9, 4-5) was routed at No. 6 Louisville 80-62 Saturday, giving up a season-high 47-points in the first half to the Cards. Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET / TV-Streaming: Regional Sports Networks-ACCNX.