February 20, 2016
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – An afternoon that seemed joyous with early leads by the Orange and a halftime celebration of the 1995-96 Final Four team, another second half got away from the ‘Cuse. Two losses in a row, including today’s 66-52 defeat, now has SU feeling that bubble getting a little less secure with just three games left to play before the ACC tournament.
Heading into the game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Syracuse as a #11 seed out of the East Region. Pittsburgh was also in the field as a #9 seed in the same bracket. To some prognosticators this was somewhat of an elimination game among like-seeded teams that frequently fall between the last four in and first four out. With the loss, the Orange (18-10, 8-7 ACC) desperately need to get to that all important twentieth win that often secures at least a solid look by the committee. With NC State, North Carolina and Florida State on the horizon, it is pivotal that the ‘Cuse can grab at least two of three so as not to make the conference tournament their biggest resume builder.
Syracuse teased their fans again with an early lead that was lost with 6:53 remaining in the first half. Michael Young’s jumper for Pittsburgh kept them in front until Tyler Lydon’s go ahead three-pointer came with 8:42 in the second frame. The Panthers led for approximately 18 minutes over a period of two halves, and would only relinquish the lead for just over a minute in the second half.
“I thought we played well defensively for over 30 minutes, we just have to make shots to be successful,” said Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “The last game Trevor shot it well, this game Tyler Lydon shot it well, we have to have at least two or three guys make shots or it will wear you down.”
Tyler Lydon’s overall play and DaJuan Coleman’s gritty toughness kept the Orange in the game until just before the final media time out when Pittsburgh started to pull away for good. Lydon finished with 21 points on 8 for 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 8 from the three-point line. His assertiveness on offensive and defensive deflections leading to SU fast breaks was a significant bright spot in the game.
“I am just trying to take whatever the defensive gives me,” Lydon said. “I knew that Artis (Pittsburgh) was going to be making passes and as a team we just worked on staying more compact, it was something I tried to focus on.”
Coleman, who notched 23 big minutes for the Orange, had eight points, eight rebounds as well as two blocks and a steal. He was active right from the onset and although his stat line will never wow anyone, his play has been far more consistent for SU. Especially, when defense and rebounding are often Syracuse’s biggest woes.
“I think I did ok overall in today’s game,” said Coleman. “I scored when I had the chances and I believe I had one of my better defensive games, but as a team we need to keep getting better.”
Despite the outburst of late from Coleman, Jim Boeheim was not happy with the play of junior forward Tyler Roberson. Admittedly so, Roberson struggled in 25 minutes amassing just four rebounds and zero points. As of late Robey’s play has declined, as he has grabbed only 14 rebounds total in the last three games and 14 points overall.
“If I had anybody else, he (Roberson) wouldn’t play a minute,” Boeheim said after the game definitively. “They are not guarding him and he is dribbling sideways while getting similar shots as Tyler Lydon. You can’t have a junior in the program play all the time and not score, you can’t win that way.”
Boeheim’s tough talk could be reflective of the fact that not only did Roberson struggle, but Syracuse was outrebounded by Pittsburgh 43-23. The Panthers also made timely baskets and converted “and one” opportunities that the Orange failed to complete in their chances. The ‘Cuse, also had few answers for Jamel Artis, who had 21 points, and James Robinson who added 13. Combined, Artis and Robinson shot 57% (12-21) from the field, as the SU zone failed to rotate repeatedly and close out on shooters. Michael Gbinije (10) and Trevor Cooney (3) only had 13 points collectively in the game for SU, as well.
With just three more regular season ACC games left, Syracuse will have a week off before their last home game of the year against North Carolina State next weekend. Saturday’s game (2/27) will be played 2 p.m. on the ACC Network.