Despite a great first half and, at one point, even a double digit lead, Pitt didn’t have enough to defeat Syracuse on Wednesday, falling to the Orange, 73-59. The loss obviously knocks Pitt out of the ACC Tournament and ends their season.
Pitt (14-19) played as well as they could in the first half and that was fueled by Jared Wilson-Frame, who absolutely dominated the game with six three-pointers and 18 points at the break. But Wilson-Frame and the rest of the team cooled off considerably and simply couldn’t keep up with Syracuse (20-12).
Against Boston College, it was the Panthers’ freshmen Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens that led the way with an incredible 49 points. But tonight, neither guy was much of a factor and the two combined for only seven points on 3-16 shooting. Unfortunately, you’ll get ups and downs with freshmen and tonight was, well, a down night.
The Panthers had two problems, really. Pitt built up the initial lead almost solely due to the hot hand of Wilson-Frame, who finished with 24 points. Because the Panthers were out to a lead in the first half, a lot of people will be inclined to think they played great on offense. But the offense wasn’t nearly as good as you might think when you take Wilson-Frame out of the equation. Besides him, Pitt shot under 25% from the field (10-39) and he just didn’t have enough help.
Secondly, I thought the defense took a step back after halftime. Obviously, you can look at the box score and see more points for the Orange in the second half. But you’d need to have watched the game to know that the defensive intensity was there, really, like it was earlier on. Pitt was really active on defense in the first half and that was a big reason for their success. But Buddy Boeheim got hot for the Orange after halftime and once Syracuse took a 40-39 lead, the momentum had clearly shifted. The defense just crumbled after that. Pitt scored only ten points in the first ten minutes of the second half and that was basically your ballgame.
Pitt wasn’t expected to win this one but that doesn’t it make it any less disappointing after the way they got out to a nice lead in the first half. Still, six more wins than last season, four more ACC wins — there’s no doubt that this was a much better year than last year.
Now, it’s time to improve and take another step forward.