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Pittsburgh 99, Syracuse 82: Orange defense collapses in second half

The 2-3 zone came undone as Syracuse lost its third straight.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (16-13, 9-9) dropped its third straight game, falling on the road 99-82 to the Pittsburgh Panthers (21-8, 14-4), unraveling in the second half. For the third straight game the Syracuse defense surrendered 13 threes or more.

Justin Taylor started the first game of his Syracuse career while Benny Williams returned to the starting lineup for the first time in eight games. Jim Boeheim was greeted to predictable boos from the Pittsburgh crowd.

Syracuse once again started off slow after the opening tip, yielding an early 9-2 lead to the Panthers. The defense surrendered a pair of open threes to Nelly Cummings, who has a proclivity for shot-making against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

Joe Girard tried to pace his Syracuse team on the offensive end. After making two of three free throws, back to back triples from he and Williams got Syracuse back to within two. A put-back tip by Federiko Federiko gave Pittsburgh a 17-13 led at the under 12-minute media timeout.

Syracuse tried to establish Jesse Edwards down low, but Pittsburgh was adamant in showing help off Williams. For his efforts, Williams took advantage of that by finding offensive rhythm. His second made three—off of a kick from Edwards—knotted the game at 17.

Boeheim went almost 12 minutes before making a substitution, but Quadir Copeland checked in for Taylor with over just eight minutes left and the game tied at 22. Symir Torrence also replaced Judah Mintz after the freshman picked up his second foul.

The Syracuse defense settled in as Pittsburgh had mixed results within its half-court offense. Neither team could take control of the game. Pittsburgh led throughout most of the half, but Syracuse fought to stay in it though as mid-range jumpers by Mintz and Girard knotted the game for the fourth time at 28 all.

Later with the game still tied, Edwards picked up his second foul and went to the bench with two minutes remaining in the first half. Pittsburgh went inside and scored, but Girard knocked down another contested mid-range jumper to tie the game at 32.

A miscommunication led to a foul just before the half, which resulted in three made free throws for Cummings, giving Pittsburgh a 37-33 lead at the break.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the break Syracuse started sluggish. Just one minute into the half, Blake Hinson buried a three and a charge by Edwards on the other end gave him his third foul. Hinson then followed that up with another three to break open a nine point lead. It was all over from there.

Boeheim inserted Copeland into the game and he contributed with an offensive rebound and putback on one series and a spin through traffic and finish that somehow crawled over the front of the rim and in on another. Syracuse trailed 48-40 at the first media timeout of the second half.

The Orange continued to battle from behind as Edwards picked up his fourth foul with 13:39 remaining. Mistake-making within the zone allowed the Panthers to continue pouring it on from outside as Greg Elliot joined the three point party, building a 64-51 Panther lead. Mintz did his best takeover performance scoring eight straight but it wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding as Pittsburgh led 64-53 at the under 12-minute media timeout.

From there, Williams made another three and Mintz scored on a layup as Syracuse showed its press down double-digits. The full-court pressure failed to tilt the scales back in Syracuse’s favor. After another Elliot three and reverse layup from Cummings all but sealed the game as Boeheim called timeout with a 13-point deficit. He reinserted Edwards despite having four fouls.

Without having to adjust on offense, Pittsburgh continued to dissect the 2-3 zone for open shots from the perimeter down the stretch. Hinson and Elliot continued the three point salvo as the Panthers opened up a 17 point lead with four minutes remaining. Syracuse never threatened as Panthers would win by that margin.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Final Stats

Pittsburgh shot 32-68 (47%) from the floor and 16-41 (39%) from three. Syracuse shot 28-56 (50%) from the floor and 9-16 from distance (56%). Pittsburgh took advantage of 21 points on 11 Syracuse turnovers and owned a 25-11 second chance points edge. The Panthers had 27 assists on its 32 made baskets.

As a silver lining for Syracuse, Williams scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Girard and Mintz scored 19 and 16 points, respectively. Edwards scored 17 points and had seven rebounds.

Next Up

Syracuse returns home to host Georgia Tech this Tuesday. That game tips at 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ACCNX.