The 2-3 zone struggled mightily as the Orange allowed Pittsburgh to crack 90 points for the first time all season. Syracuse surrendered a five point halftime lead only to lose by 20, the largest margin of defeat for SU this year.
The Orange failed to get stops and once again had a difficult time rebounding the ball, allowing the Panthers to score 18 second chance points. Pittsburgh won the battle on the glass 47-35. Jim Boeheim said it was among the worst defense the Orange have played since he’s been at Syracuse.
Worth mention: Pittsburgh forward Justin Champagnie made an unexpected early return after going down with an LCL injury in late December. The injury was expected to keep him out longer, but he returned in a big way against Syracuse scoring 24 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
To the takeaways.
Second half struggles
Syracuse has struggled to put together strong performances in the second half of games this season. The Orange led Pittsburgh at the half of the first meeting as well as on Saturday, ultimately suffering defeat both times. Syracuse was tied with North Carolina at the break in Tuesday’s game and faltered down the stretch. The Orange also led Georgetown by 13 after the first half before letting the Hoyas climb back into it, despite holding on for a win.
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead over Pittsburgh and led by as much as nine in the first. The Orange surrendered the lead but finished strong down the stretch and went into the break with a five point lead. Pittsburgh came roaring out of the second half gate to the tune of an 8-0 run, taking control of the game and taking back the lead, one the Panthers wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Pittsburgh dominated Syracuse in the paint and on the glass in the second half to cruise to a 20 point victory, continuing SU’s second half struggles.
No true big man
Once again Syracuse was forced to play without senior center Bourama Sidibe. Sidibe remained sidelined with knee soreness; he tore his meniscus in the season opener. Marek Dolezaj has taken over the center duties but remains out-manned in the middle.
Jesse Edwards had a brief stint late in the second half when Dolezaj picked up his fourth, but Boeheim didn’t like what he saw out of Edwards and quickly went back to Dolezaj with over seven minutes remaining despite his four fouls.
Having Sidibe back isn’t the panacea, but the center position remains an issue as Syracuse doesn’t have a reliable big to anchor the 2-3 zone.
The Syracuse starting backcourt has been inconsistent shooting the ball this year. Joe Girard and Buddy Boehiem struggled once again to get going, combining to shoot 4-16 from the floor against Pittsburgh. They went 0-11 from downtown. Kadary Richmond came in off the bench but went 1-6 shooting the ball.
This game was lost on the defensive end, but the guards are going to have to shoot the ball better for Syracuse to have in a chance in the ACC.