Most of us figured the Panthers wouldn't be able to pull this one out and that's what happened. Sure, Pitt had its obscene track record of dominance against our favorite orange-colored team to the north and ACC partner in crime, but past history usually means little compared to actual talent.
I wrote earlier that Pitt really needed some more contributions from a few guys and they got that. Cameron Wright (yes, that Cameron Wright) played a surprisingly good game and had ten points. J.J. Moore didn't shoot all that well (2-7), but still had seven points in only 11 minutes. John Johnson added nine and the Panthers got 30 points from their bench.
Pitt also rebounded well, killing Syracuse on the glass 38-24, so that was fine.
The problems? Free throw shooting and ... shooting in general.
Pitt and Syracuse both took the same number of shots from the charity stripe, 23. Syracuse, though, made 20 of theirs compared to only 12 for Pitt - so there's eight points. Watching the free throws simply mind-numbing. Pitt shooting about 50% from there isn't a huge surprise, but when the other team gets that many free throws and converts them, that's where the misses really add up.
Then there was the shooting from the field. Again.Pitt hit only 39% of their shots from the field and continued to struggle there. I won't break down the entire team, but the starters only made 11 of their 32 shots. Playing against the No. 1 team in the land on the road with that kind of poor production is setting yourself up for failure.
The other thing was that huge 13-0 deficit from the opening tip after Pitt missed their first six shots. Sure, they were able to come back and get to within four in the second half, but the adage that it takes so much of a team's energy to make up a deficit like that really proved true. Pitt simply couldn't get over the hump and I think that bad start really was too much to overcome. Even if the Panthers had been able to come all the way back and tie the game, I doubt they would have had enough to hold off the Orange.
Hard to be too angry at this result. Pitt was competitive on the road against the No. 1 team without their starting point guard. Crazy as it sounds, I still think they can make a run this year and finish respectably with the way they've played over the last two games.
Only problem is that it could be too late.