Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh: A Look At The Epic Win, By The Numbers

Justin K. Aller

Syracuse did a lot of things better than Pittsburgh last night, so why did the Orange need a buzzer-beating shot to get the win?

As if the 2013-14 Syracuse Orange basketball season needed more unbelievable story lines, last night's battle against the Pittsburgh Panthers created another one. While the Orange was never down by double digits, it was the sort of game where a six-point deficit felt like a million. In truly astonishing fashion, this team remains undefeated.

It wasn't mid-March, but it felt like it was. It wasn't "must win," but it felt like it was. It wasn't that pretty. But then... it was.

Let's take a look at how the Orange came away with the win, by the numbers.

Team Stats

Game Rebounds: 24
Season Average: 35

Missed rebounds means missed second-chance opportunities. Pittsburgh took advantage of this on both ends of the floor, using defensive rebounds to turn the Orange into a one-and-done team, and using offensive boards to get more field goal attempts -- eight, to be exact. They took 50 shots to Syracuse's 42. If not for a decent percentage (SU was 42.9% from the floor and from deep), the game would not have been as close as it was.

Fun fact: SU's 42 attempts were its second-lowest in a game this season. The lowest? The other Pittsburgh game, during which 'Cuse only attempted 41.

Game FG% Defense: 36%
Season Average: 40%

So, Syracuse allowed Pittsburgh to make 36% of its shots. It's not far from the season average, but it looks a lot better when I tell you that Pitt came in making over 46%. The Syracuse defense has been great all year, and it's clear that it was the key once again. With the Panthers getting more shot opportunities, the Orange needed every bit of its defensive prowess to prevent this game from getting away from them.

Game Assist%: 66.7%
Season Average: 51.9%

The chemistry was great last night, and I've always felt that this statistic was a good indicator of that. If a team assists on more shots, it means that the passers not only know where their teammates are, but they also know where their teammates need to get the ball to be effective.

For example, C.J. Fair isn't making as many three-pointers this season, but have you noticed that he makes just about every one of them when he has the time and space to really pause and set his feet? That's exactly what happened late in the second half when he hit the triple from the corner to cut Pitt's lead in half.

Individual Stats

Michael Gbinije Minutes
Game: 22
Season Average: 13
The consensus was that he had a really good game, and I think a lot of that is because he had time to get comfortable on the court. He hit a three, got aggressive, and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. Gbinije didn't end up with gaudy numbers (7 pts, 4 rebs, 1 ast), but he came through for his team. And they needed every one of his contributions.

Trevor Cooney FT%
Game: 100%
Season: 87.8%
Can we talk about this for a second? So, Cooney hits his free throws. The thing is, he doesn't take that many. This makes me want to say "drive the basket more and get thee to the line!" Then, I remember that he's also pretty good at shooting threes, and in case you didn't know, you can't drive the lane if you're shooting from deep all the time. Whatever he's doing seems to be working, so I feel like it's one of those if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it scenarios...

…which is kind of how I feel about the team in general. I'm not saying the players are perfect, so don't freak out. That's just it, though. They don't have to be. When they get on the court, they're not a bunch of individuals anymore. They're one whole unit -- a team -- and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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