It was senior night at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday, and it was also the last regular season home game for the Pittsburgh Panthers (15-14, 6-12) They were looking to make the most of it against a Syracuse Orange (16-12, 9-8) team that hadn’t been able to separate itself from the middle of the pack in the ACC.
Neither team did much to support either one of those narratives as the teams combined to shoot just 7-22 going into the second media timeout, and shared six turnovers between them as well.
“We just came in and wanted to win for the seniors. Obviously, that didn’t turn out in our favor,” was freshman forward Justin Champagnie’s response when asked if there was any sense of urgency going into the game.
Junior forward Elijah Hughes pushed Syracuse in front as he scored the first seven points of a 11-2 run that saw the Orange take a 19-11 lead, and forced Pitt to take a timeout. Adding to the Panthers woes were mounting foul issues. By the last media timeout, sophomores, guard Xavier Johnson and forward Au’Diese Toney each had two personal fouls along with freshman forward Karim Coulibaly. Junior forward Terrell Brown joined them on a bench less than a minute later with his second foul of the half. When the buzzer for the half sounded, Syracuse had a commanding 37-21 lead.
For the half, Pitt shot just 7-23 from the floor (30.4%) and was 2-10 from three-point distance. They also committed 12 turnovers to the Orange’s five and allowed them to go the charity stripe 10 more times (5/6 to 12/16).
On the slow start, Champagnie said, “As a team we have to come out the game with more energy.” Head coach Jeff Capel followed that up, “It was everything,” in terms of what areas his team lacked energy in.
Syracuse continued to play well in the second half. The Panthers did not after the first minute. By the second media timeout of the half, Pitt trailed 62-37 largely due to a 20-6 run by the Orange that spanned from the 18:26 mark until the 12:20 mark. The Panthers showed very little signs of life outside of Johnson and Champagnie.
Pitt would never get within more than 19 of Syracuse from the 14:39 mark until a late three-pointer by sophomore guard Trey McGowens brought them within 17 at the 4:59 mark. Much like their home game against the Clemson Tigers earlier this month, the Panthers were blown out by at least 20 points, 72-49.
Champagnie led the Panthers with 13 points and career-high 17 rebounds.
Jeff Capel on Champagnie’s night, “Those numbers look great, but there’s more he can do.”
The Orange were led by Hughes’ 25 points on 8-15 from the floor.
“He was just good from the beginning,” was head coach Jim Boeheim’s comment on the game Hughes had tonight versus their previous game.
Pitt will try to salvage a season that has quickly gotten away from them at the North Carolina Wolf Pack (17-11, 8-9) on Saturday.