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Syracuse 77, Pittsburgh 61: Orange emerge in second half effort

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Syracuse pulled away from Pittsburgh behind a second half defensive effort.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team ended a three-game losing skid, handling the Pittsburgh Panthers by a final score of 77-61 inside the Carrier Dome. Syracuse led by just one at the half, but the defense stepped up in the second, allowing just 27 Pittsburgh points.

The Syracuse offense started off strong behind Jimmy Boeheim and Jesse Edwards. The two front-line players scored five points each by the first media timeout and although the defense continued to lag, Syracuse held a slight 10-8 lead at the first media timeout.

As the half wore on, Pittsburgh lost track of Buddy Boehiem. A screen on the left wing gave him as open of a look as he’s had in the last four games — he buried it to give Syracuse a 13-10 lead. Then Buddy made another and more defensive attention followed. On the next play he was doubled and found Symir Torrence underneath for a wide open layup.

Pittsburgh hung tough through that stretch, however, grabbing six offensive rebounds in the first eight minutes for second-chance points. But Buddy would rip off two more quick 3s, staring at the Pittsburgh bench after he made his fourth and retreated toward the other end to make it 25-21.

Pittsburgh started 0-5 from deep but as the half wore on it made the next four out of five and eventually reclaimed the lead at 27-25. A layup on the next play after a missed Edwards jumper gave the Panthers a 29-25 lead. John Bol Ajak, who had only played in three games this season, checked in with 4:08 to play in the first half, replacing Benny Williams. He’d play four minutes without registering a stat — good for a four trillion.

As the half wound down, a Joe Girard bucket trimmed Pittsburgh’s largest lead of the game (seven) to five. Then, after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, Girard made two out of three to make it a one possession game. Buddy then scored inside to bring the lead to one and as the half came to a close, Jimmy Boeheim tipped in a Frank Anselem miss just before the halftime buzzer to give Syracuse a 35-34 lead at the intermission.

Buddy’s 14 points paced the Orange. Pittsburgh shot 13-26 from the floor and 5-12 from three while Syracuse shot 13-27 from the floor and 5-10 from three. The Panthers had a slight edge on the glass 16-13.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse came out aggressive on offense following the intermission to the tune of a 16-3 run as Girard got things started with a score inside on the first possession. Pittsburgh made two free throws to answer, but Jimmy Boeheim followed it up with a right-handed hook-shot inside, then Girard made a pair of free throws after being fouled to continue the run.

Then Edwards scored inside off a feed from a Boeheim and was fouled. After making four first half 3s, Buddy wasn’t given much room to breathe in the second half. He put the ball on the deck, drew a foul and made two free throws to give Syracuse an eight point lead. A Jimmy bucket inside on the next play pushed the lead to ten, resulting in a Jeff Capel timeout before the first media timeout.

Later, Buddy’s fifth triple — this time from the corner — gave Syracuse a 15-point edge and pushed him to 21 points for the game, making it his eighth 20-point game of the season.

Edwards managed to stay out of foul trouble for most of this game, not fouling in the first half and only picking up two fouls through the first 14 minutes of the second half. He flipped the script on Pittsburgh center John Hugley, as he drew Hugley’s fourth foul on an a charge at the 9:22 mark.

But later in the half with Syracuse up double-digits, Edwards was whistled for his third foul at the 5:41 mark. Pittsburgh went full-court pressure after and forced a turnover. Scrambling to play defense, Edwards raised up to contest a shot and although there was no contact on the play he was called for his fourth foul at the 5:26 mark.

Jim Boehiem elected to stick with his starting center holding on to a 67-54 lead. The 13 point margin was as close as Pittsburgh would get the rest of the way, however. Down the stretch, Syracuse went to the free throw line and made them, going 17-24 from the line in the second half. The defense as a whole stepped up too, limiting Pittsburgh to just 5-21 shooting in the final 20 minutes including 2-10 shooting from outside.

Edwards did foul out at the 1:21 mark. As he walked to the bench, Syracuse fans stood and applauded his 12 point, 8 rebound and 3 block effort.

Buddy Boehiem led all scorers with 24 points on 5-8 outside shooting while Jimmy Boeheim finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Cole Swider chipped in 10 points.

For the game, Syracuse shot 25-49 (51%) from the floor and 6-17 (35.3%) from three.

Next Up

Syracuse returns home on Saturday to host Florida State. That game tips at 3 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN.