The Syracuse Orange (12-5, 3-3) started off hot from beyond the arc, draining 6/10 in the first half, as Adrian Autry earned his first road conference win over the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-7, 1-5), 69-53.
SU shut down the Oakland Zoo early thanks to a 20-4 run in the first half, then held on as Blake Hinson and other Panthers were an ice-cold 5/26 from distance while trying to play catchup.
J.J. Starling had one of his best games in Orange, leading the squad with 17 points and also picking up three rebounds. Despite the team only having six second-chance opportunities compared to Pitt’s 15, they led for over 30 minutes.
The Orange struck first courtesy of Judah Mintz and Maliq Brown. Mintz picked up a defensive rebound and led the breakout, and as the shot clock ran down, he found Brown for a slam from dahn-tahn. Judah played facilitator tonight as despite a poor shooting performance, he dished out five assists and grabbed nine boards to make up for it.
Chris Bell drained the first of ten Orange trifectas - six of his teammates also got in on the action, the most this season.
After some early back-and-forth, Pitt put up nine unanswered points on three straight deep shots, building a six-point lead. SU responded in kind with a 9-0 run of their own to get to 23-20, then didn’t let up the rest of the half. Quadir Copeland got into the action with both a lunging drive and an in-your-face triple.
One Pitt play ended in a total breakdown, with SU going 3-on-0 down the other end and finishing with Bell ringing the rim on this slam:
He led ‘Cuse with 10 points, and his team led by 11, at halftime. They didn’t stop there, with Starling swishing the net right out of the locker room. Justin Taylor soon connected on his second bullseye after that as part of a mini 7-0 run.
Pitt managed to cut the lead down to 10, but Judah got on the scoresheet by drawing four fouls and converting 7/8 at the line. Those easy points prevented the deficit from shrinking any more, and one final three-point jumper from J.J. at the 1:31 mark sealed the game.
For now, this is a Quad 1 victory for SU - their first this season. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for Coach Red and company, as they return home for the next three games, starting with Miami this Saturday at noon. That will be followed by contests against Florida State next Tuesday and NC State next Saturday.
UPDATE: After the game, Autry announced that Naheem McLeod is out for the season. He previously suffered a right foot injury and has not played since the loss at Duke. McLeod averaged 14.4 minutes, 3.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in games this season. He is eligible to return for a final season next fall.