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Pitt hangs on to beat Syracuse 65-61

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Pitt hangs on for a close, but important victory

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt certainly made it interesting in the final minutes of this one, but they ultimately held on for an important 65-61 road win at Syracuse. The Panthers had the lead at double digits multiple times in the second half, but like any Pitt-Syracuse game, it came down to the very last minute.  The Panthers sweep the season series against the Orange, and Jamie Dixon improves to 12-6 all-time against Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim.

Pitt was led by three players in double-figures, most notably Chris Jones coming off the bench for 19 points. The sophomore guard hit 5 of 6 shots from thee-point range, including four in the first half to help keep Pitt in the game. Pitt also received another superstar performance from Jamel Artis, who went for 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Mike Young battled through foul trouble and some loose officiating on Rakeem Christmas to post a solid 14 points.

Rakeem Christmas proved to be a force again, and Pitt had no answer when he was deep in the paint. The senior big man went for 20 and 12. In a bit of a surprise Jim Boeheim received 20 points from his two bench players, Ron Patterson and BJ Johnson.  The Syracuse starting backcourt of Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph managed to go scoreless, and still Syracuse was able to grind it out to make it a close game.

The story of the game early was Pitt's inability to rebound, and conversely, Syracuse's inability to shoot. Both teams fed off of that to play a back and forth affair in the first half. Chris Jones caught fire in an offensive struggle towards the end of the half, and Jamel Artis hit a three at the buzzer to give Pitt a six point lead.  Pitt never trailed in the second half, but the Orange did manage to cut the game to a 61-60 game with under a minute on a BJ Johnson three-pointer. Pitt did enough to hang on, though, and this marks just their second true road win of the year.

Pitt absolutely needed this win, and it keeps their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Jamie Dixon's squad is now 18-10 overall and 7-7 in the ACC. Heading into the final four regular season games, all you can ask is to still be in the conversation, and Pitt is certainly there. The Panthers have a favorable schedule as they have finished their stretch against the league's top games, but they need to remain focused. Pitt will host Boston College Tuesday night 9:00 at the Petersen Events Center.