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Pittsburgh 65 - Syracuse 61: Five Big Takeaways

Once more, we discuss yesterday's game. Sorry.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange lost their fifth game in seven tries Saturday, when the Pittsburgh Panthers left the Carrier Dome with a 65-61 victory -- their second over SU in just 15 days. Here are five big takeaways:

1. Refs, man.

The officials didn't cost the Orange a win yesterday, but they certainly didn't help Syracuse's cause. With Pittsburgh leading 61-60 in the game's final minute, the referees made back-to-back questionable decisions -- first by calling an illegal screen on Rakeem Christmas and then by not blowing a whistle when it appeared Pitt's James Robinson traveled. The officials weren't responsible for SU digging itself an 11-point deficit in the second half, but you have to wonder what could have been had either of those two calls gone in Syracuse's favor.

2. Patterson, Johnson shine off bench.

B.J. Johnson and Ron Patterson each made much-needed contributions Saturday for the Orange, who otherwise had trouble shooting the basketball. Johnson went 4-of-5 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point range, to score 11 points -- the third time he's scored in double figures this season. Patterson finished 3-of-5 from the field and scored nine points of his own, the most he's had in nearly two months. The two couldn't do quite enough to earn Syracuse a victory, but they were instrumental in the Orange battling back in the second half.

3. Christmas struggles early, ends strongly.

Rakeem Christmas didn't do much in the first half of Saturday's loss, scoring just six points on 1-of-5 shooting. But the big man bounced back nicely in the second half and finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. After scoring 29 points in a win over Louisville on Wednesday, he has now scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games and has achieved double digit scoring in all but two games this season. Christmas will play his last home game as a member of the Orange when Syracuse hosts Virginia on March 2.

4. Orange get little from Cooney, Joseph.

Christmas aside, Syracuse didn't get a whole lot from its starting five yesterday. Guards Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph had as much difficulty as anyone, as both players went scoreless. As for Cooney, who went 0-for-4 from three-point range, it was yet another poor showing in what has become a pretty lengthy slump. In Syracuse's past six games, the guard is shooting at a 20 percent clip (10-of-50) from beyond the arc. He came out of Saturday's game with back stiffness, something that head coach Jim Boeheim said has been bothering the junior for a few days. Whether or not that has contributed to Cooney's issues is unknown. But either way, the Orange will need more from the junior in their last four games.

5. Whatever chances Syracuse had at reaching 20 wins just got slimmer.

If they weren't already, the Orange are now in serious jeopardy of not reaching 20 wins for the first time since the 1996-97 season. SU, now 17-10 overall, needs three more wins to get No. 20. With four games left, that's going to be difficult -- especially when you factor in that Syracuse's remaining schedule consists of No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 4 Duke, No. 2 Virginia, and NC State. Never say never, but the Orange would have to win three of four on the road AND beat Virginia at home. Right now, that seems unlikely.