Before today, Pittsburgh had owned Syracuse. Over the past 13 years, Jamie Dixon was 15-7 against the Orange, including three wins last season.
But Saturday was a different story. Even Dixon couldn’t have saved his former team at the Carrier Dome.
In the first half, Syracuse hit eight 3-pointers on 16 attempts, and shot nearly 60 percent from the floor.
SU led by as many as 28 points in the first half, which was the story of the game. The Orange used a 30-2 run to get out to a commanding lead that was simply too large for Pittsburgh to come back from.
With the game tied 6-6 at the 15:56 mark in the first half, Syracuse scored 11 of the next 12 baskets, including eight 3-pointers. SU then led, 36-8, and the game seemed out of hand.
And it was, for the most part. A late 11-2 run from Pittsburgh brought the game closer, but SU’s lead was never in doubt. In fact, the 11-point victory felt like a 20+ point victory, but Syracuse will take whatever it can get right now.
Tyus Battle scored 13 first-half points, while graduate transfer John Gillon had eight first-half assists. Seven of Gillon’s assist came during SU’s 30-2 run, and he also added six points. It was easily his best game in a Syracuse uniform as he recorded his first double-double — 18 points and 11 assists.
The 30-2 run is something that everyone knew this team was capable of, but, truthfully, no one knew if we’d see it this season. John Gillon is breaking out of his shell right before our eyes. He’s proving this is his team, his offense and he’s doing everything he can to make it flow.
He hit six 3-pointers, which tied a career-high, and also played the entire 40 minutes.
The SU defense held James Artis and Michael Young — the ACC’s top two scorers — to just six points in the first half.
This was a different Syracuse team today. It’s what we expected before the season. It took some time, but this is their potential. The Panthers were coming off of a 12-point victory over No. 11 Virginia, and got embarrassed at the Dome on Saturday.
Is Syracuse back? It’s too soon to truly know. But this was a great second step in the right direction following Wednesday’s win over Miami.