Syracuse (15-8, 6-4) fell at Pittsburgh (16-8, 5-5) in a tightly contested game marred by numerous whistles. In a game with a combined 55 made baskets, there were 42 total fouls called. In the final several minutes, Syracuse had to deal with Rakeem Christmas, Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson playing with four fouls.
The other starter, Kaleb Joseph, had three fouls. Three Pitt players also had four fouls on the night.
The foul trouble hurt Syracuse’s ability to be aggressive defensively down the stretch, specifically after falling behind in the final minutes and needing a stop to get back in it.
Syracuse came out shooting hot, shooting 57% in the first half. They cooled off in the final frame, hitting only 41% of their shots. Pitt, on the other hand, flipped that script, shooting 59% in the second half after 39% in the first.
Syracuse seemed to be in control throughout much of the game, but Pitt used the seldom productive Sheldon Jeter off the bench who knocked in 18 points on 7-9 shooting. He averaged just three points per game coming in.
Jeter scored seven points in the final 4:48 after Syracuse took a 69-67 lead. He helped Pitt’s decisive 10-4 run that gave the Panthers a four point lead. After Christmas cut the lead back to two, Jamel Artis hit a dagger three with 1:04 left and the shot clock winding down to push the lead to 80-75.
The game was the first time the Orange took the court since announcing a self-imposed postseason ban. They played well offensively throughout, but struggled to crash the defensive boards. The Panthers finished the game with 16 offensive rebounds and 21 second chance points.
Christmas and Gbinije carried the Syracuse offense, each pouring in 23 points. Gbinije added four rebounds and three assists while Christmas snatched 12 rebounds and blocked six shots. Cooney struggled from the floor, going 3-12 overall and missing his last six three-point attempts to finish 1-7 from beyond the arc.
WHAT WE LIKED: Gbinije seemed to hit clutch shot after clutch shot throughout the game whenever Pitt was gaining momentum. He finished with 23 points on 9-15 shooting. Likewise, Rakeem Christmas was all over the place on both ends of the floor. He continues to be one of the best low-post players in the country. It was also nice to see Syracuse come out and play with a lot of energy, especially at the start. They responded well to the postseason ban announcement.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Syracuse made only 20 of their 30 free throw attempts. In a close game, that is too many misses. In the same realm, it’s rare to find a game with 42 fouls called. The officials impacted the game and really hurt the flow for both teams. One minute there would call things tight, the next possession they would let them play. There was no consistency, and it hurt what was otherwise an entertaining basketball game between two bitter rivals.
KEY MOMENT: With Syracuse trailing two points with less than 40 seconds left, Jamel Artis drove the lane and flipped up a floater in the lane. He left the ball short and Syracuse had a chance to snatch the rebound to gain possession with a chance to tie. However, the ball got tipped around and ended up in the hands of Sheldon Jeter, who put the ball off the backboard for an uncontested layup. The basket gave Pitt a four-point lead with 33 seconds remaining. The Orange never got closer.
QUOTABLE: “I’ve never seen a fan make a basket yet. If you’re a good player, you want to play in an environment like that.”
-- Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim on the atmosphere at The Pete
”I don’t give a shit what those people think.”
-- Boeheim on people thinking he runs a dirty program
STATS OF THE DAY: First half shooting (Syracuse 57%, Pitt 39%) and second half shooting (Syracuse 41%, Pitt 59%) were flipped for each team. Syracuse won the battle of points in the paint 38-26. The Orange turned it over 14 times compared to just 10 for the Panthers. Syracuse led for over 31 minutes of the 40 minute contest. Pitt won the rebounding battle 35-33, including a 16-12 offensive rebounding edge.
NOTES: Rakeem Christmas notched his ninth double-double of the season. He now has 929 career points. He needs to average 8.9 points per game for the rest of the season to hit the 1,000 point mark.
UP NEXT: Syracuse stays on the road as they play at Boston College on Wednesday, February 11th at 7:00pm.