The lack of shooting on the Syracuse Orange made this one much closer than it should have been, but the Orange managed to make up for their kryptonite with their defense, as they squeaked out a 60-55 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The strong offensive performance against Boston College didn’t carry over into the first half, as the Panthers’ high ball pressure caused the Orange to go into standstill mode on offense. Syracuse wasn’t able to get out in transition which led to their lack of shooting being exposed in the half court offense.
With the Syracuse offense back to its typical ways, they needed their backbone, defense, to show up in a big way—and it did. The Orange forced the Panthers into a shooting slump, holding them without a field goal for a little over 13 minutes.
The defense couldn’t do it all on its own though, so the Orange resorted to their leading scorer, Tyus Battle, to help them grab a 22-20 lead heading into the break. Battle finished the half with nine points, as he made up for the 1-12 combined shooting from Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett.
The Orange looked the same to start the second half, struggling to find open looks in the half court. Syracuse’s big three struggled to beat the ball pressure, so they moved to a different weapon that the Panthers could not have seen coming: Bourama Sidibe. The freshman big man was able to use his size and athleticism to down low to help the Orange prevent their lead from disappearing.
Sidibe got a little help from Brissett in second half who was able to expose the Panthers both inside and outside the arc for a short stint. The Panthers did a good of limiting Battle’s success in the second half, but Sidibe’s efforts inside was too much to match for the Panthers late as he finished with his first career double double (18 points and 16 rebounds).
The Panthers were starting to look like they were going to make a comeback, but Marek Dolezaj and Sidibe’s presence down low limited their success. The two forwards finished with five combined blocks as their ability to go straight up exposed the weaker Pittsburgh guards.
The story of the game were the struggles from the “big three” who finished with 29 combined points on 11-36 shooting from the field. The Orange were lucky they were facing a weaker team in Pittsburgh, because they really need their go to scorers to be on if they want to find a way into the big dance.
Up next is Georgia Tech on the road this Wednesday where the Orange will look to move above .500 in ACC play.