It took a while. An entire half, in fact.
But when Briana Day finally got going, she resembled the player that's averaged a double-double this season rather than the one that's been hampered with an ankle injury. After being held scoreless in the first half, Day finally scored 51 seconds after intermission, by pouncing on an offensive rebound and putting in a put-back layup.
And once Day started scoring, she couldn't be stopped.
Syracuse's sophomore center scored 11 points in the second half and the Orange (14-5, 4-2) pulled away from Pittsburgh in the last few minutes for a 68-60 win in the Petersen Events Center. Alexis Peterson and Brianna Butler scored 14 points apiece, while Cornelia Fondren had 13 for No. 23/22 Syracuse.
The Orange picked up its seventh straight win in its series against the Panthers and extended its season winning streak to four games.
This latest victory, like many this season, was a result of Day's all-around dominant play. She had the rebounds (ten), a few blocks (four) and picked up her ninth double-double of the season. Aside from the early scoring drought, there weren't too many signs that she's been slowed down by an ankle injury. It kept her out of Syracuse's win against Boston College and out of parts of the game before that.
While her scoring was delayed, her defense was immediate. Day, the ACC leader in blocks, used her 6-foot-4 size to alter shots and her lean, lanky frame to move quickly around the paint. Her first block against the Panthers came just about a minute into the game, a rejection of a Stasha Carey jumper.
Day and the Orange never trailed in the first half, but it was Butler whose offense gave them the early lead. Butler started 3-4 and had eight points through the first 6:04 of play. The junior guard, just a 29 percent shooter from 3-point range, hit her first two shots from behind-the-arc. The second one gave Syracuse a 15-8 lead.
The Panthers surged back a few times, but the Orange never gave back the lead in the first half and went into intermission with a 30-26 advantage. But Pitt quickly tied the game by rolling off eight straight points early in the second half, the first of many lead changes in the latter frame.
The Panthers made one final push with 3:31 left, when they were able to cut the lead to two. The Orange has lost all three games this season decided by five or fewer points. When Yacine Diop's jumper made it 62-60, it looked to be heading in that direction again.
But Syracuse finished the game on a 6-0 run and tightened up on defense in the last few minutes. The Panthers didn't score after Diop's shot, missing the final six field goal attempts of the game.
It's the 13th time this season that Syracuse has held its opponent to less than 40 percent shooting and the Orange has won all but one of those games.