Pitt Panthers vs. Syracuse Orange Preview

A hot Syracuse Orange ball club, winners of eight of their last ten, welcome the Pitt Panthers to the Dome on Thursday night.

GAME 17: Pittsburgh (8-8 overall, 0-3 ACC) vs. Syracuse (12-4 overall, 2-1 ACC)

ALL-TIME SERIES: Syracuse, 35-19 (Last Meeting 2015 – Syracuse: W, 68-54)

*Series includes both Big East and ACC meetings.

*Syracuse won both meetings last season.

DATE: Thursday, January 14th, 2016

GAME TIME: 7:00 PM EST

LOCATION: Carrier Dome

TV: ESPN 3: this can be accessed on a variety of platforms if you have a Watch ESPN log in (free account).  Watch ESPN provides access to ESPN 3 content via an account and apps on the Internet, Tablets and Smart Phones.  Currently, the game will not be broadcast locally on television.  Check your guides and channels for spontaneous changes.

ORANGE RECAP: The Orange are experiencing one of their hottest runs of the season.  SU is winners of two of their first three in the ACC, and eight of their last ten overall games.  This includes Coach Q’s 200th victory in dominating fashion over then #12 (currently #22) Duke (86-50), with near misses at home to the #24 (currently #10) Arizona State (61-54) and on the road at North Carolina (77-73).  So, after receiving 13 votes to make the Top 25 (despite not getting in), it is also safe to say that ‘Cuse is one of the most consistent and hottest teams in the country.  They deserve so much more respect from the nation and this area.

In recent action, Syracuse disposed of a much improved Virginia Tech team (13-3, 1-2 ACC) by a score of 60-39.  They continue to be paced by Alexis Peterson, who had 16 points, seven assists and four rebounds.  She is the pace setter for SU, and everyone else’s play seems to feed off her motor.  Briana Day scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.  Brittney Sykes and Brianna Butler struggled from the field with only 11 points between them on 4-22 shooting.  But with Maggie Morrison logging more minutes after her break out performance against Duke, and Cornelia Fondren getting four steals; the depth of the Orange is really one of their greatest strengths.  ‘Cuse sits alone in fifth place in the ACC, behind only #3 Notre Dame (15-1, 4-0), #23 Louisville (12-5, 4-0), #21 Miami (15-2, 3-1) and NC State (12-5, 3-1).  The Orange is desperately looking to crack the Top 25 and stay in the upper segment of the ACC standings.

PITTSBURGH: The Panthers currently are not one of the top teams in the conference.  They have been a longtime foe of the Orange with their Big East ties, but have not been that successful since Utica, N.Y. (Proctor HS, Dallas Wings WNBA) native was First Team All-ACC in the backcourt.  However, led by Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio who is an Olympic Gold Medalist (1988 – Seoul), WNBA player and coach; there is confidence on the rise in spite of troubles this season.  There are not many significant wins on the resume this season other than a victory over historical power of years gone by, Old Dominion (Conference USA) 67-58 in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands around Thanksgiving.  Losses against top competition include #8 (then #6, Big10) Maryland 70-49, #3 Notre Dame 66-55 and #21 (then unranked) Miami 79-55.  Pitt is on four game losing streak, including their first three games in the ACC.  But, the Orange should still do their homework as the Panthers still have three players averaging in double figures this season: Kalista Walters (F, #32) 12.8 ppg., Yacine Diop (F, #12) 11.2 ppg. and Brenna Wise (G/F, #50) at 10.1 ppg.  Pittsburgh averages just fewer than 37 rebounds per game (36.8) and is scoring just around 63 points per game (63.2).  Syracuse has been averaging 81.7 ppg. in their last six games and average 43.1 rebounds per game overall, so those categories seem to favor the Orange.  The 14.3 steals per game by the ‘Cuse certainly will challenge Pittsburgh in their sets.  The Orange has the edge, but every game in conference has to be valued as the season progresses.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:    

Alexis Peterson:  She is leading Syracuse in scoring (14.9 ppg.), as well as assists (90) and is fourth in rebounds (55) at the point guard position.  Peterson is one of the true gems in the women’s game and the entire game of basketball.  If you want to see guard play that will remind of the likes of Hall of Famers like Cynthia Cooper and Isiah Thomas, then Alexis Peterson is your pick.

Brianna Butler: She is undoubtedly the main long distance threat for the Orange, and this has been true throughout her career in Syracuse.  Nothing can and should not be taken away from that success.  But, with a three-point field goal percentage of 29.8 (53-178) and an overall field goal percentage of 30.6, there has to be a concern.  Butler has to extend her game to include a stronger repertoire in order to help this team be more consistent on that side of the floor.  She has only attempted 17 free-throws this season, and that number needs to rise.

Maggie Morrison:  Her stats may not wow you, save for the Duke game, but she is one of those glue players.  If you’re a fan of streaky shooting and floor burns, Morrison will light up your eyes.  She’s been steadily climbing up the depth chart and is a significant factor off the SU bench. 


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