With about nine minutes remaining in the first half and holding a one point edge, the Panthers started to create some distance between themselves and the Orange. Pitt went on a 8-0 scoring run with four baskets coming from different players. Syracuse though would put together a streak of its own to take the lead for the first time.
After a layup by Pitt's DeJuan Blair made the score 27-19 in favor of the Panthers, sophomore Rick Jackson rocked the rim with a one-handed dunk over Blair. Jackson then shoved Blair and picked up a technical foul, but it sparked the Orange. With two minutes to go, guard Andy Rautins knocked down a three-pointer to cap the run and give SU a one point lead.
Pitt would regain the advantage and went into the break with a 31-28 lead. Essentially the only reason the ‘Cuse was in this game was because of Rautins. The redshirt junior sank three trifectas and paced the Orange with eleven points. In contrast, point guard Jonny Flynn was 1-of-6 from the floor with only two points.
Rautins looked like he would duplicate his first-half performance after canning another trey to tie the game at 33 apiece. But that would not be the case, as the Orange quickly fell behind after a bucket by Jackson gave SU its last lead of the game with over eighteen minutes left in the contest.
Less than four minutes into the second half, Pitt strung together an 18-5 run and stretched its lead to 13. Forward Sam Young dropped in seven of those points for the Panthers who used his great shot fake to get defenders in the air which opened up space to drive or shoot.
Syracuse had one more burst of energy, responding to the Pitt scoring run with back-to-back threes from Eric Devendorf and Rautins. SU trailed 53-46 after that, but that was as close as the Orange would come. In the last four or five minutes of the game it seemed as if the Orange gave up, allowing Pitt to drive down the lane for easy baskets and stretch the final margin to eighteen points.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 78-60 loss at Pittsburgh:
· The Orange leads the Big East in field goal percentage, shooting the ball at just under 51 percent. Tonight Pitt held SU to about 42 percent, but the most glaring stat is in the rebounding category. The Panthers outrebounded the Orange by thirteen (37-24), and were just more physical than Syracuse.
· Speaking of being physical, Pitt's DeJuan Blair is an absolute monster. The big man recorded a double-double with twenty points and twelve rebounds. His counterpart Arinze Onuaku took a step back with tonight's performance. After he took it right to Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, scoring nineteen points, he flopped against Blair. A.O. only had nine and attempted a mere six shots. SU has many scoring options, but the big guy has got to have more shots than that. Instead of being assertive, he was soft tonight.
· The most disappointing performance of the night came from Flynn. The sophomore was a dismal 3-of-14 from the field in this game and had only two points in the first half. If you look at the glass half-full, Flynn scored 10 in the second period of play, eight of those coming in the final six minutes when everyone else looked like they were going through the motions.
· Also, Devendorf didn't do much of anything in this one. Only four shots attempted for a total of five points. He also turned the ball over four times in only 24 minutes of action. Pitt did a fantastic job of bottling up the lane and not allowing him to slash to the hoop. The Panthers blocked eight shots on the night.
Syracuse (17-3, 5-2 Big East) ranked 8th in the nation gets a few days off, returning home to take on the Louisville Cardinals. That game is on Sunday, January 25th at noon.