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Syracuse men’s basketball: what to watch for vs Pittsburgh

The Orange go for a season sweep.

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

The Syracuse Orange (11-5, 2-3) are back on the road tonight to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-6, 1-4) at the Peterson Events Center. SU defeated Pitt 81-73 inside the Dome just over two weeks ago for their first ACC win of the season. The rematch will tip off at 7pm on ESPN.

Here’s what we’re watching for tonight:

Kevin: Points off turnovers

In the first matchup, Syracuse battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit behind 12 steals. You don’t expect another poor shooting night from Blake Hinson, so can the Orange ramp up the pressure early and try to get their transition game going on the road? Syracuse has struggled offensively in all three ACC road games this year so getting out on the fast break should be the focus.

Mike: Control the glass

SU is coming off a blowout loss at Chapel Hill, where the No. 7 Tar Heels picked up 19 second chances on offense. Pitt is the best team in the conference at swarming the glass for rebounds and that is a big reason why they almost won the first meeting. It’s doubtful that they’re going to shoot below 50% from the line again so ‘Cuse can’t freeze up or be afraid to jump for the loose ball.

Finn: Win Guard Battles

In the ‘Cuse win earlier this season, the ability to penetrate the defense from Quadir Copeland, Judah Mintz, and JJ Starling was key. Whilst the Panthers might have more overall quality amongst their bigs, Syracuse’s strength comes from the varied skillsets of the guards. The three aforementioned guards have guided ‘Cuse to its biggest wins in games where they are composed and in control. If Mintz and Copeland can set the tempo and find open teammates, the game will really open up for the Orange.

Dom: Confidence in the half-court

Even if Syracuse can force as many turnovers as it did in its last game versus Pitt, the Orange will still need to find a way to consistently score in other ways that aren’t in transition or at the foul line. Copeland notably had his best game all year, and the Orange exploded for 51 points in the second half to complete its comeback. In an environment like Pitt, momentum may not be able to be swung that easily. Syracuse has to get off to a strong start and get everyone involved earlier rather than later.

Szuba: Orange resolve

Syracuse has done a good job moving on to its next game after losses this season. So far the team hasn’t allowed one loss to turn into two. But the most recent loss to North Carolina was no ordinary defeat. Is Syracuse able to more or less forget about the 36 point loss on Saturday and prepared to compete against Pittsburgh? It would be understandable if Syracuse was still licking its wounds, but if the team is ready to go it will say a lot about the resilience of this group.

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What are you looking for in tonight’s game?