Syracuse basketball routs Pitt to keep NCAA hopes alive

Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim
Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim looks to pass. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Two first half runs gave Syracuse a 14-point lead and they never looked back from there, cruising to a 72-49 win at Pittsburgh. The Orange (16-12, 9-8 ACC) pushed the lead to 21 just over five minutes into the second half, coasting to an easy victory despite being without the services of Buddy Boeheim for much of the night. Boeheim, the team’s second-leading scorer, went down with an ankle sprain with 5:32 left in the first half and did not return.

SU struggled on offense until late in the first half when they scored 13 points in less than five minutes, but had to make 9-of-10 from the free throw line to do so. Meanwhile, they simply stifled the Panthers (15-14, 6-12) throughout the game, allowing the hosts to make just 29.1 percent of their field goals on the night. Syracuse also owned a 41-32 rebounding advantage and forced 17 turnovers in the game.

It was a one-possession game through the second television time out, but when the game resumed, the Orange opened things up with an 11-2 run. Elijah Hughes did a lot of the heavy lifting, scoring the first seven points with an alley-oop lay-in, a three-pointer, and a pair of foul shots after a Pitt basket. Bourama Sidibe dropped in a short hook and Quincy Guerrier capped the run with a putback for a 19-11 lead with just over nine minutes left in the opening half.

The Panthers stayed close, eventually pulling within five points on a triple, but SU tallied nine straight points in a little over two minutes to gain plenty of breathing room. Sidibe and Hughes each had a pair of free throws, then Joe Girard III kissed a lay-up high off the glass and added two free throws after a technical foul was assessed on the Pittsburgh bench during the final media timeout of the half.

Sidibe dropped in another foul shot on the next Syracuse possession, extending their lead to 33-19 with 2:37 on the clock. After a Panther basket, Marek Dolezaj hit a jump shot below the right elbow and Hughes drained two more from the line for a 37-21 lead at intermission.

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Pitt opened the second session with five points, but the Orange responded with a 12-2 run. SU hung seven straight points to open the burst. Hughes swished a deep three to start the offense, then Dolezaj took off with a defensive rebound for a lay-up. Hughes added an 18-footer to make the lead 18.

Two Panther foul shots slowed Syracuse, but just briefly. Brycen Goodine, playing in Buddy Boeheim’s absence, made a pretty lead pass for a Hughes fast break lay-up, then connected on a triple from the right corner for a 49-28 Orange lead just under five minutes into the second half.

Shortly after that, Girard connected on back-to-back threes from the right wing, the latter from well beyond the arc, to push the margin to 57-32. Neither team could string together consistent offense the remainder of the game, including SU struggling for a basket for over four-and-a-half minutes late in the contest. The Panthers could not take advantage, though, going without a point for the final 4:59.

Elijah Hughes played the leading man role for the Orange, piling up 25 points and nine rebounds in the game, including 16 points in the first half. Joe Girard III hit four three-pointers in the second half as he added 16 points. Despite sitting a large portion of the second half with foul trouble, Bourama Sidibe stuffed the scorebook, piling up 13 points, ten rebounds, five steals, and four blocks.

Lost in Pitt’s offensive struggles was a strong effort from Justin Champagnie. While he did not shoot well in the game, Champagnie tallied 13 points, 17 rebounds, and three steals. Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney each had eight points for the Panthers.

The Orange will close out the home portion of the schedule on Saturday when they face North Carolina. The Tar Heels are in unfamiliar territory, residing in last place of the ACC at 4-13 in conference and 11-17 overall.

Carolina ended a seven-game slide on Tuesday when they claimed an 85-79 home victory over North Carolina State. Garrison Brooks led the Heels with 30 points and nine rebounds, going 14-of-16 at the line in the game. He leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per game and is second on the squad with 15.7 points per outing. Freshman guard Cole Anthony, who posts 19.7 points per outing, had 19 in the win over the Wolfpack.

ESPN will televise Saturday’s contest, which is set to get underway at 4:00pm Eastern.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 614 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.