When you start a football game down 19-0, things are off to a bad start, but at least you're holding them out of the endzone. When you start a basketball game down 19-0, you're not doing anything right. Such was the case tonight when the Orange found themselves in a 19-point hole early. It's the kind of demoralizing start to a game that makes you want to throw in the towel.
Syracuse went on a 17-0 run of their own and all of a sudden we had a game with six minutes left in the half. Down a mere four points at the half, the Orange had made it a game. They even tied it up early in the second half.
Unfortunately, Pitt went on another one of those runs, a 9-1 one, and the Panthers kept the pace up the rest of the way, handing Syracuse their first loss of the season 74-66.
I don't much care for "good losses" but perhaps that's exactly what this was. The Orange will be hard-pressed to find a more hostile environment and a better opponent during the regular season. Without their leading scorer and relying heavily on contribution from freshmen, the Orange held their own and dug their way out of a ridiculously-deep hole.
As they have in years' past, Pitt tackled the zone head-on and broke it down from within.
Pitt's early game plan of pounding the ball into the center of the Syracuse zone gave it a lead it would never fully relinquish. Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo was taken out of the game for good after just two minutes. The trademark Syracuse zone was torn apart like it hadn't been all year.
James Southerland was expected to step up in lieu of Kris Joseph and his eight point, five rebound, four assist performance was good. But it was a duo of freshman who ended up making the most impact, acting as catalysts for the Orange to stay in the game.
C.J. Fair took a page out Kris Joseph's 2009-2010 playbook and led the team in scoring off the bench (16 points, 9 rebounds) while Dion Waiters added nine points and six boards. Both played extensively and both had a hand in getting the Orange back in the game and keeping them there.
As many folk pointed out tonight on Twitter, Scoop is Scoop and by now we know that any good always comes with the bad. Jardine added 12 points and four assists but added two turnovers and had a few "Scoop moments."Triche added 11 points of his own on 4-of-9 shooting.
Rick Jackson had a Rick Jackson-y night with ten points and eleven boards. Hr basically spent the entire night as the only big man underneath, a losing battle against Pitt's Bigs, whom collected 44 rebounds to SU's 30.
Fab Melo's earned goodwill from the last game went out the window as he ended up seeing two minutes of action early and was never heard from again. Bate Moussa Keita joined Club Six Trillion in six minutes of action.
The Orange fall one game short of matching the all-time best start for an SU team. However, much like earning a No. 1 ranking last season, that's a superfluous honor that ultimately means nothing. Better that we get challenged and learn how to respond to being punched in the mouth than fatten up on wins.
The good news is, without Kris Joseph, the team held its own for the most part on the road. The bad news is, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but we are REALLY missing DaShonte Riley down low. It's clear that while Fab and Baye have had their moments, they're just not there yet in competing with the kind of blunt force trauma inflicted by a team like Pitt. Whether they can get better during the season remains to be seen. I think we're probably looking to Baye more than Fab at this point.
The other side to that is the fact that Boeheim basically played with a six-man rotation tonight. They're not going to be able to keep that up (hurry back, Kris!).
The sky is not falling, Syracuse fans. The end is not nigh. It's a loss to one of the best teams in the nation on the road. Better it happen now in January than later on in March.
- Syracuse Basketball Score And Reaction: Pittsburgh Earns 74-66 Victory Over Orange...SB Nation NY
- Instant analysis: Pitt 74, Syracuse 66...ESPN
- Syracuse Suffers First Loss at Pittsburgh...FanHouse
- The Syracuse-Pittsburgh first-half gamecast looks funny...Searching For Billy Edelin
- Ah phooey...Cuse Country
- Syracuse loses first of season against Pitt...The Juice