Syracuse Vs. Pitt Game Rewind: Awesomeness Trumps 40 Minutes Of Ugly

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Syracuse's victory Wednesday night may have been the most shocking of the season, as Tyler Ennis' 35-foot buzzer beater made all of Orange Nation happy as can be. But, let's not forget how the Orange got there.

Anytime the Syracuse Orange play the Pittsburgh Panthers, Georgetown Hoyas, Notre Dame Fighting Irish or, in the case of this season, the Miami Hurricanes, SU basketball fans prepare for ugly.

Of course, the term ugly is a code word for, "old-fashioned Big East basketball," which is a broadcasters politically correct term for describing the worst brand of basketball Dr. James Naismith could have thought up.

According to programs like Pitt, Georgetown and Notre Dame, basketball should consist of these things: dribble the ball up the court; pass the basketball around the 3-point arc for 20 seconds; run a play with nine seconds to go on the shot clock -- which usually looks good because, you know, practice makes perfect -- or chuck-up a 30-foot shot; which will either go in, hit the rim so damn hard it bounces back into the hands of a friendly guard or forward, or is up for grabs for a big, hulking teammate to grab.

The rest of basketball, at least on the offensive side, is just dumb luck, as the opposing team somehow finds a way to snag a rebound.

The old Big East defensive philosophy is simple -- play as physical as possible until the referees either: call everything a foul and your team is left with nobody to play with, or they forget what an actual foul is. The latter is known as Karl Hess Syndrome.

What this way too long, ugly, slow moving, terribly wordy lead-in is getting to is (see what happened there?), this is what happened Wednesday night when the No. 1-ranked Orange (24-0, 11-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) shocked the Panthers, 58-56, inside the Peterson Events Center.

Years for now, when college basketball fans look back on this "old-fashioned Big East slugfest" they will remember Tyler Ennis' 35-foot buzzer beater that capped off an impressive late-game comeback that helped the Orange improve to 24-0.

However, when SU fans remember this ACC showdown, it will be as one of the worst games ever played. In the end, the only time awesomeness happened was when the game clock, literally, ticked down to zero.

Of course, no Orange fan would forego reliving all the pain and suffering because the ending was so worth it. So, just for the record, nobody is complaining here.

But, all of that aside, if Ennis did not sink his miracle shot, Wednesday's game would have been banished to the same vault that other awful SU games have been sentenced to.

And, unfortunately, it is my job to re-watch this travesty of a basketball game and pick out things that stood out the most. So, here we go. Let's relive the 40 minutes of hell that is Syracuse vs. Pitt.

****

One of the biggest reasons Pitt, led by head coach Jamie Dixon, always gives Jim Boeheim-led squads fits is they are able to dictate pace of play no matter how good Syracuse is. The Panthers limited the Orange to a season-low 41 shots in the pair's first meeting, and the other night Pitt nearly matched its defensive performance holding SU to 42 shots.

There's differing opinions on whether or not this is good for Syracuse, but what this does is make every offensive possession more important. The Panthers are coached to be patient and pass the ball around until the shot clock winds down. That's when they "attack," with fantastic ball movement or a prayer of a 3-point shot.

Early on, and at other spots during this contents, Pitt moved the ball well on offense.

Admittedly, when Pitt moves the ball like that, it is a thing of beauty.

Besides good ball movement near the end of the shot clock, Pitt always seems to have a guy or two that can nail a deep 3-pointer when the shot clock is ticking down. Lamar Patterson is the Panthers' big threat this season, and coming into the game the biggest factor was how healthy his injured thumb would be. Come to find out, it was just fine.

Despite Pitt's domination on the glass -- the Panthers snagged seven offensive rebounds before SU collected its first with 6:13 to go in the first half -- and its on-and-off again ability to move the ball against the 2-3 zone, the Orange somehow stayed in the game.

A lot of the credit for this needs to be given to backup Michael Gbinije, who score all seven of his points in the first half (including the 3-pointer below), and a key bucket by Trevor Cooney with 38 seconds remaining in the first half.

As the game came to a close, it got more brutal to sit through. Every time Pitt took a solid lead, the Orange managed to mount a comeback. However, the momentum didn't last long because the Panthers would reclaim a lead of five, six or eight points.

The back-and-forth was made worse because the referees fell into the Karl Hess Zone about midway through the second half, and made a bunch of questionable decisions. Here's just a few:

Clearly, none of this pleased Jim Boeheim.

(f you're a Pitt fan reading this and wondering: Where's the questionable fouls against our team? Well, there was a few, especially some 50/50 out-of-bounds deflections that could have gone either way, but, in the final nine minutes of the game the foul ratio favored Pitt seven-to-three. Two of Pitt's three fouls came on James Robinson's foul on Ennis' late-game drive with under a minute to go (obvious call), and Patterson's foul on Fair, which led to his old-fashion 3-point play (shown above). All-in-all, there's not much of a case for you. Sorry.

But, hey, that is basketball sometimes, and the boys in Orange kept playing -- even when Pitt hit a, "Oh, it is all over now play," that gave them a 54-48 lead with 1:56 to go.

From there, it was C.J. Fair's time to shine, as the senior scored eight straight points in a 4-minute, 30-second span that helped SU close to within one point.

Now, it was Ennis' turn. Hey, remember that half-court shot the freshman took before the end of the first half?

Of course, the odds of that shot having anything to do with his memorable buzzer beater are slim, but it is fun to think it did.

Anyway, somehow, the Orange lived through another, "you have got to be kidding me?" moment when Pitt center Talib Zana, a 63 percent free-throw shooter, made both of his free throws (meaning he went 8-for-9 from the charity stripe during the game) to cap a fantastic 16-point, 14-rebound performance that helped give the Panthers a one-point lead with 4.4 seconds remaining.

The rest. Well, the rest is amazing and beautiful and thrilling and prettier than the 40 minutes SU battled through. Enjoy it again and again and again...

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