Pitt and Syracuse battled back and forth for most of Wednesday's second half, but the Orange led by a point after Trevor Cooney hit a pair of free throws with four minutes to play.
Sheldon Jeter then keyed a 14-2 Pitt run that spanned the game's final three minutes and the Panthers opened ACC play with a 72-61 win against Syracuse. Jeter went on a 7-0 run by himself with a pair of dunks and an and-one layup that quickly put Pitt in control after Cooney's free throws.
"That’s just what I try to do when I come in," Jeter said. "Anytime I come in I just want to bring energy because usually if I don’t then I’m coming out."
The Orange kept Pitt from penetrating their zone for most of the game until the stretch run. There, Jamie Dixon's team finally broke through and wrested control of the game away from Syracuse.
"We seemed to attack the zone for whatever reason, the way we wanted to in the last five minutes," Dixon said. "We got a lot more penetration, we got layups and then more inside-out."
Jamel Artis led Pitt (11-1, 1-0 ACC) with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to nearly post a triple-double. He was as-advertised when it came to busting Syracuse's zone.
"I just played basketball basically," Artis said. "Just played the game, find the right people that’s open, create shots for myself. When you create shots for yourself people come open so I did a great job of finding my man, my teammates and they were catching the ball well and they were finishing."
Michael Young added 15 points, while Sheldon Jeter scored 11 and Chris Jones had 10 off the bench.
The Panthers shot just 41 percent from the field and made 6 of 23 3-pointers, but turned 19 offensive rebounds into a 22-2 advantage in second-chance points. Pitt outrebounded Syracuse 43-25 overall.
"That’s what helped us beat them both times last year," Young said. "We knew coming in the game if we outrebounded them we’d have a great chance at winning."
Syracuse head coach Mike Hopkins said his team played 35 minutes of excellent basketball, but noted the Pitt's composure late to secure a victory.
"That last five minutes, they gave it to us," Hopkins said.
Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson scored 15 points apiece to lead Syracuse (10-4, 0-1). Michael Gbinije finished with 14 and Tyler Roberson chipped in 10 points.
Pitt led early as Syracuse struggled to make free throws. Michael Young's put-back gave the Panthers their largest lead of the game at 15-8.
Syracuse found its offense for a spell and tied the game at 20-20, Pitt made three straight baskets to go back up 26-20, but Syracuse closed the half strong to tie it at 30 after 20 minutes.
The Panthers shot only 34 percent from the field in the first to Syracuse's 43 percent clip, but out-rebounded the Orange 25-13 to help account for Syracuse's edge from the field
Richardson made a layup out of the half to give Syracuse its first lead of the game, 32-30. The Orange went up 43-35 to take their largest lead of the game five and a half minutes into the second half.
Pitt responded and tied the game again at 48 with a pair of free throws from Artis. After Gbinije missed a layup, Artis led the Panthers out in transition and dished to Robinson for a layup that gave Pitt a 50-48 lead.
After Cooney's free throws, the Panthers defense forced several turnovers to secure the game's result at the other end.
"We just dug down," Artis said. "We knew we had to get a ‘kill’, three stops in a row, we had to dig down on defense. It was crucial at the time and we came down and we got stops, so tht’s what it came down to."