The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has come out alive from the Pitt of Doom with their first Q1 win of the season... at long last!
The Orange took a lead for good late in the first half and successfully fended off any comeback efforts in their 69-58 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers. After striking out on its first five tries, Syracuse earned a valuable Q1 win at Pitt and redeemed itself from its worst loss in the ACC.
Here are the three takeaways from Tuesday night’s game:
Staying the course
In an usual way compared to a good amount of this season, Syracuse avoided both a slow start and a desperate comeback in its win over Pitt. Last time, the Panthers stole all the momentum in the final four minutes of the first half to burst out to a lead, and Syracuse really had to dig in to escape with that home win back in December.
This time around, it was the completely opposite — the Orange never trailed by more than six points (20-14). Syracuse held Pitt scoreless down the stretch and used a scoring run to go up by nine points (37-28) at halftime, then put together just enough good stretches to outlast any comeback attempts from the Panthers. That was especially true towards the end of the game, where Syracuse held Pitt scoreless for a three-minute stretch down the end.
That's an ACC road dub pic.twitter.com/tNXVgq4JZ7— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 17, 2024
Considering the notorious road environment Pitt is, it was a good sight to see Syracuse get a win in this type of fashion — let’s hope it’s a confidence-booster moving forward.
The most unconventional of wins
Like I said, this was an unordinary way for Syracuse to win when you look at how this team has performed across the rest of the season.
The biggest swing factor was probably the three-point shooting for both teams. Syracuse shot 10/17 from three after entering the Pitt game with the third-worst three-point percentage (31.5%) in the ACC, while the Panthers went ice cold and were 5/26 from downtown (including 2/11 from Blake Hinson).
Keep in mind: Pitt did hold a 16-5 advantage in points off turnovers and a 15-3 advantage in fastbreak points — both of which have been staples for the Orange.
And yet, give credit to the main rotation for all contributing. J.J. Starling finished with a team-high 17 points on 7/11 shooting, but seven total Syracuse players scored at least two baskets (and one of those players was not Maliq Brown, who has been on fire lately). That included two made threes from Chris Bell and Justin Taylor, 12 points combined out of the Benny Williams-Kyle Cuffe Jr. duo off the bench and another all-around performance from Quadir Copeland (8 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists).
In a game where Judah Mintz played fairly well but finished shooting only 3/13 from the field, it was good seeing the bounce back particularly from the rest of the rotation.
Hats off to Autry
We might have to begin tracking it at this point, but this game was yet another instance showing the value and energy coach Adrian Autry brings to the program.
Autry emphasized how “one game doesn’t define a season” after the brutal loss to UNC, even if it was a historically-horrific defeat. Syracuse breaking through right after a night like the UNC game is straight-up becoming a trend in Autry’s first year.
Syracuse dropped two-straight in Maui to two ranked opponents, but followed that up with a blowout win over Chaminade and a 33-point home win over LSU. After the ugly Virginia game, the Orange ripped off five-straight wins including against Georgetown, Oregon and Pitt. Even in the ACC, after two double-digit losses in North Carolina to Duke and UNC, Syracuse fought back to beat both Boston College and now Pitt.
We still have to keep the bigger picture in mind — Autry has coached just 17 games and is in year one of a long-term rebuild of the program. Part of that includes creating a team culture centered on accountability, motivation and bouncing back from mistakes.
Syracuse certainly did just that against Pitt.
Now it’s your turn: what are some of your takeaways from the Orange’s win?