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Six takeaways from Syracuse’s 74-63 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers

There would be no let-down following the team’s win at Duke.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 74-63 at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. More than 24,000 fans braved the snowy weather to watch Syracuse’s homecoming following the team’s win against No. 1-ranked Duke. The Orange didn’t let its fans down as the team took care of business on the back of its strong 2nd half play.

Here are our takeaways:

Tyus Battle and Paschal Chukwu stay hot

Following his 32-point performance against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Tyus Battle dropped another 22 points against Pitt. The game marked Battle’s 29th 20-point performance which leads all active ACC players. The junior star did most of his damage in the second half with 15 points on 6-8 shooting.

Battle got off to a slow start with his first make coming with 5:05 remaining in the first half. He finished the half with 7 points on an inefficient 3-9 shooting. Battle was jawing at the refs following a few no calls in the first half, but he found a way to channel that energy into a stellar second half performance.

As for Paschal Chukwu, he followed up his 10 point, 18 rebound performance against Duke with 6 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks against the Panthers. Chukwu’s performance in the middle of the 2-3 zone was felt as Pitt shot a poor 11-30 inside the arc. The 7-foot-2 center was forcing players to alter their shots mid-air and preventing Pitt from getting any easy shots at the rim. He shined for the second straight game.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Howard is back

Frank Howard shot just 2-9 from the field on Saturday, but what was most impressive was his ability to lead the offense and show himself as a threat to score from all levels. Howard is back to consistently attacking the basket and being physical on his drives — an encouraging sign considering there were games earlier this season that Howard was barely entering inside the three-point arc.

He also elevated well on each of his jump shots and has played in over 30 minutes in three of his last four games. The senior point guard ultimately finished with 10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals and zero turnovers.

Buddy Boeheim playing confidently

No one was questioning Buddy Boeheim’s ability to shoot the ball. The biggest complaint about Buddy was his lack of confidence with the ball in his hands. After knocking down his first three, Buddy knocked down each of his next three from beyond the arc. His quick release and confidence in himself forced Pittsburgh out of its zone defense — an element to the game which can’t be understated considering Syracuse’s struggles against zone defenses this season. Buddy Boeheim finished with 13 points and a big second-half steal that stopped Pitt short of cutting the Orange lead to single digits.

Buddy Boeheim knocks down an open three against Pittsburgh’s zone

Free throw woes

Syracuse shot just 12-23 (52 percent) from the free throw line in its win over Pitt. After failing to get to the free throw line once in the first half, the Orange were at the line 23 times but failed to make the most of its opportunities. The team had plenty of chances to extend its 10-12 point lead out to 15-20 points and failed to do so largely due to the poor shooting at the charity stripe.

Syracuse Slovakian stuffing the stat sheet

Marek Dolezaj totaled 4 points, 6 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in the win. Three of his five assists came on backdoor plays in which he found cutting teammates for high-percentage looks at the rim. Dolezaj’s play on defense and on the glass earned him extended playing time in the second half. He finished having played 21 minutes.

One of Dolezaj’s biggest contributions couldn’t be found in the box score. The spacing that he creates opens up the floor for the rest of the Syracuse players to operate. It gives the team more room to run pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops. The paint is less clogged on drives and shooters are more open when the defense is forced to collapse. His presence on the floor was a big lift for the Orange.

Marek Dolezaj throws a backdoor pass to Elijah Hughes for a dunk

Jalen Carey takes a seat

After turning the ball over three times in seven minutes against Duke, Jalen Carey didn’t see the floor for the Orange on Saturday afternoon. Pittsburgh showed zone for a large portion of the game and Carey isn’t adept at beating that sort of defensive scheme as he isn’t a great three-point shooter. It could stand to reason that head coach Jim Boeheim leaving him off the floor was scheme-related.

For Syracuse basketball news, highlights and analysis, follow Dylan on Twitter @dfines31