Charlotte, N.C. — The Syracuse Orange played its first basketball game in three seasons without shooting guard Tyus Battle. Against Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC Tournament, Syracuse sat its junior guard in Battle who was nursing a sore back after a hard fall at Clemson on Saturday. The Orange struggled in the first half without him, only to flip the script in the second half by dismantling the Panthers for a third time this season by a final score of 73-59.
Pittsburgh came out aggressive from the tip and applied pressure in the half court but Syracuse was able to squeeze some early production from Frank Howard as he knocked down two 3s early for the Orange. The Panthers switched defenses and picked up full court and collapsed into a 2-3 zone in the half-court against Syracuse without one of its primarily ball handlers in Battle.
On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh looked to attack the Syracuse 2-3 zone off the bounce and drew some early fouls on the Orange centers. Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe each picked up two quick fouls apiece and Chukwu third followed suit not long thereafter. The Panthers took advantage as it was able to go 10-10 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes.
Jalen Carey got some late run in the first half and had a nice sequence when he got out on the fast break and finished with a reverse lay-up. On the ensuing possession he penetrated the Pitt zone and kicked to Elijah Hughes for three which cut the Pittsburgh lead to just three. Jared Wilson-Frame responded for Pittsburgh before the end of the half with a triple which gave the Panthers a 36-30 lead at the intermission.
Syracuse came out hot in the second half as Elijah Hughes had a quick 5-0 run with a pull up two and three off a skip pass from Howard. Pittsburgh answered, but Buddy Boeheim caught fire by converting a floater in the lane and knocking down back-to-back 3s. It was an 8-0 run for the younger Boeheim which proved instrumental to bouy the Orange lead.
Syracuse continued to flip the script by playing well throughout the second half on both ends of the floor. In its previous losses to Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Clemson, the Orange held the lead at halftime only to squander those leads in the second.
That narrative was turned upside down against Pittsburgh though as Buddy Boeheim moved on to a new career high, Howard showed some promise by knocking down shots and Hughes continued to give out buckets. That troika carried the offense and the defense locked in to give up only 23 second half points.
Buddy Boeheim led Syracuse with a career-high 20 points. Hughes finished with 18 points and five made 3s. Howard concluded his night with 18 points as well along with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Syracuse shot 23-53 from the floor but 12-27 from deep.
Syracuse now moves on to play Duke in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, same time, same place. The Blue Devils are expected to have Zion Williamson back, but will be without Marques Bolden.