Syracuse falls once more as defense is listless

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Jan. 16, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim speaks with reporters via Zoom following the Orange's 96-76 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Saturday afternoon, Syracuse rallied to take a halftime lead, but got buried in a 64-point second half by Pittsburgh in a 96-76 road loss. The Orange (7-4, 1-3 ACC) closed the opening session with an 10-2 run for a five-point lead, but gave up the first eight points of the half and a pair of 16-4 runs to the Panthers (7-1, 3-1).

Pitt blistered the nets in the second half, shooting just under 58 percent from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc, and a hair under 89 percent from the free throw line. SU was only able to get consecutive defensive stops twice after halftime, one stretch of three in a row and the other of just two.

Syracuse also could not stop Pittsburgh on the glass, getting outrebounded, 47-35. That fed directly into a couple handfuls of easy points for the Panthers, as they held an 18-6 advantage in fast break points.

The Orange scored nine of the first ten points of the day as Pitt missed their first ten shots from the field. Quincy Guerrier finished the hot start a pull-up jumper and a three-pointer.

SU kept the hosts at arm’s length until the midpoint of the half, but Pittsburgh roared back with a 15-4 run, capping the burst with eight straight points for a 24-21 lead with under six minutes left in the opening session.

The two squads traded scores for the next three minutes, then Marek Dolezaj scored on a floater and backed his way down to the basket for a short bank shot to nudge Syracuse in front. The pair of buckets sparked a 10-2 run that gave the Orange a 37-32 lead that held to the break.

The Panthers opened the second half hot while the Orange were sloppy with the ball. Pitt posted eight straight points to take the lead. SU fought back, taking the lead on a deep right wing three by Alan Griffin.

Just over a minute later, Pittsburgh needed just under four minutes to rip off a 16-4 run bookended by a pair of 7-0 bursts. The offensive explosion gave the hosts the first double-digit margin of the game at 59-48 just over seven-and-a-half minutes into the second half.

Syracuse fought back. Guerrier scored in the post, then Griffin added two foul shots and a fast break lay-up after a Panther basket. Dolezaj and Guerrier followed with baskets down low, pulling the Orange within 61-58 with a little over nine minutes left.

Pittsburgh answered with another 16-4 run, this one capped with eight straight points, claiming control at 77-62 with just over five minutes on the clock. The Orange never threatened again, closing to 12 points at one point, but Jim Boeheim exploded at the referees following a foul call shortly after, earning a technical foul. The Panthers kept the guests at bay over the final minutes, adding on the last six points of the day for their largest lead at the final horn.

Alan Griffin scored 20 of his career-high 28 points in the second half, leading all scorers in the game. Quincy Guerrier hung yet another double-double, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds along with four blocks. Marek Dolezaj added 14 points and three blocks while Buddy Boeheim finished with a dozen despite missing all eight of his three-point shots.

» Related: In game of runs, Syracuse loses to North Carolina

Justin Champagnie returned from injury for the game and exploded for 24 points and 16 rebounds for Pitt. Xavier Johnson added 23 points, making all 13 of his free throw attempts, and handed out seven assists. Ithiel Horton made five threes as he piled up 20 points and Au’diese Toney dropped in 18 points.

The Orange return to action on Tuesday when Miami comes to town. The Hurricanes (5-6, 1-5) have lost four of five games, all in conference action, and will host #16 Louisville on Saturday night.

Miami has been struggling through injuries, including an ankle injury that has sidelined senior guard Chris Lykes for over a month and a hamstring injury to guard Kameron McGusty. Isaiah Wong has picked up the slack, leading the team with 16.5 points a game. Lykes, who came into the season with 1,225 points scored in his career, was averaging 15.5 points per game before going on the shelf.

The action will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern with the ACC Network handling television duties.

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About Jim Stechschulte 677 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.