It looked so good for the Syracuse Orange after an 18-point lead with 4:40 left in the first half. But the Pittsburgh Panthers clawed their way back into the game after Syracuse went cold in the second half. Au’Diese Toney tipped in a missed shot from Ithiel Horton to secure Pitt’s lead and a bad inbound play led to a 63-60 Orange loss.
Here are three takeaways from a baffling Syracuse defeat.
A tale of shot selection during two halves
I thought I’d be writing about Syracuse’s good shot selection leading to an eventual Orange victory. SU actually took advantage of multiple good looks from three-point range to build its lead. However, the second half saw a multitude of puzzling and confusing shots from Syracuse. Joe Girard in particular took multiple questionable shots in the second half as the Orange only went 5-for-19 from deep in the final 20 minutes.
It seemed that Syracuse returned to bad habits with Syracuse guards taking shots way too early in the shot clock and settling for contested look all over the floor. The Orange offense stalled hard against the Panthers as there seemed to be little variety to Syracuse’s game plan. The shot chart is very telling with 38 of SU’s 60 field goal attempts coming from deep.
The shot chart from the Syracuse-Pitt game is fascinating. The Orange almost completely ignore the paint against the Panthers. pic.twitter.com/RtnZ10AjOT— Christian De Guzman (@CTDeGuz) January 6, 2021
Syracuse almost completely ignored the paint and settling to launch balls from three. Ignoring the inside game and staying stubborn from range ultimately led to Syracuse’s downfall.
It’s vital that Quincy Guerrier stays out of foul trouble
On paper, this game should have been tailor-made for Guerrier. However, Syracuse’s star forward picked up two early fouls in the first half and eventually committed his fourth foul with 19:30 left in the second half. Guerrier ultimately only played 17 minutes against Pitt, and he looked reserved and passive when he eventually returned to the game.
His absence and foul trouble allowed Pitt to dominate the boards with the Panthers out-rebounding 49-33. The lack of Guerrier’s presence was extremely felt on the defensive end as Pitt grabbed 20 rebounds which led to 21 second chance points for the Panthers. Guerrier needs to stay out of foul trouble to help Syracuse dominate on the inside.
Unforced errors didn’t help Syracuse’s cause
Syracuse had 13 turnovers against Pittsburgh. While the Panthers had 16 turnovers, Pitt only recorded three steals. That means 10 Syracuse turnovers were not directly caused by a Pitt steal. There were multiple offensive possessions that Syracuse threw away and the Panthers got three more points off turnovers than the Orange.
The Syracuse offense switch once again to a focus on isolation ball with the guards dribbling a lot and putting the ball on the floor, which led Orange players running into Pitt players far too often. We’ve already discussed earlier this season how Syracuse needs to use passing and off-ball movement to generate offense, not isolation ball. The Orange reverted back to old habits and it showed against the Panthers.