Syracuse’s offense struggled again as their lack of shooting made this one close for most of it, but the length and size of their defense showed up and got enough stops to move the Orange to 13-6 on the season.
The first half was full of missed jumpers and unexpected plays as Oshae Brissett’s tomahawk slam and Matthew Moyer’s crossover into a step back jumper got the fans on their feet. It wasn’t your typical start for the Orange’s defense as the zone looked sloppy and was giving up offensive rebounds again, but they were able to tighten the screws as time went on.
The Orange needed to come out swinging with their recent struggles as of late, and applying the press early gave them the pressure on defense they were looking for. The Panthers lead the ACC in turnovers, and the Orange took advantage of that by forcing Pittsburgh into seven in the first 20 minutes.
Despite Tyus Battle’s quiet first half, the Orange were able to find some scoring off of some nice ball movement from Howard Washington. The freshman has started to get some more playing time the last two games, and he has shown poise and an ability to find the open man despite his limited scoring capabilities.
Battle’s cold first half led the Orange to rely on the remaining two players of their “big three” in Frank Howard (18 total points) and Brissett (10 total points); the two combined for 15 points and 3/6 shooting from three to help Syracuse take a 27-22 lead into halftime.
Syracuse’s lack of shooting continued to start the second half as the Orange’s inconsistent play prompted coach Jim Boeheim to remove his jacket. Parker Stewart’s hot shooting in the first half continued on into the second, as time and time again the Orange were left watching him nail threes.
Syracuse got the run they needed from their dynamic backcourt which allowed them to separate from the Panthers. Battle drilled a three pointer at the top of the key which was followed by a successful and one from Howard off of a Marek Dolezaj steal; that quick 6-0 run gave the Orange the 45-35 lead, and they didn’t look back.
The Orange looked more aggressive on offense in the second half as they were able to push the ball up the floor off of Pittsburgh misses. The offense will continue to struggle with poor perimeter shooting, but the Orange can succeed as long as they attack the rim like they did in the second 20 minutes.
The “big three” ended up providing the bulk of the scoring as they combined for 43 points. The 18 forced turnovers was the real difference for the Orange who now move to 2-4 in conference play.
Syracuse will now have eight days off as they look to turn this win into a streak of its own against Boston College on Jan 24 in the Carrier Dome. That game tips at 7pm EST and will air on ESPNU.