SYRACUSE— The Pittsburgh Panthers tested the phrase “a win is a win” tonight, avoiding a devastating collapse at the death, beating Syracuse 84-82.
What seemed at first a stellar wire-to-wire domination of a talented Syracuse team quickly took on a different identity, as a 20-point lead slipped to a singular point with less than a minute to play.
Leading the charge in tonight’s victory was Blake Hinson, (25 PTS, 13 REB) as well as Nelly Cummings (22 PTS, 6 AST, 6-11 3FG). Pitt shot well as a team from three, going 13-32 on the night. Turnovers were a problem, especially in the second half, as the Panthers gave the ball away 16 times.
The Panthers did further their identity as a strong rebounding team, winning the battle on the boards 44-35.
Jeff Capel expected the Panthers to need an adjustment period to the Syracuse zone when asked about it following the win over North Florida. Based on how the Panthers came out of the gate, no adjustment necessary.
The Panthers cut the famous Boeheim 2-3 zone to shreds early, thanks in part to consistent outside shooting and crisp passing. Of the first ten Panther baskets, eight came off of assists.
There’s a lot of talk about the midrange game playing a big part in breaking down the zone, but the Panthers capitalized on hot shooting from three, going 8-19 from deep in the first half, including four from Nelly Cummings.
a 16-2 run early on in the contest gave the Panthers a healthy dose of confidence, with a big dunk by Hinson and an alley-oop from Cummings to Frederiko added in for good measure.
While the Panthers started hot from three, the Orange were ice cold, going 1-10 on their first ten attempts. Pitt played solid defense in the first half, limiting Syracuse’s leading scorer Joe Girard to three total points, all from the free-throw line. Girard shot 0-3 from the field, all coming on attempts from behind the arc.
In what was one of the most impressive halves of Pitt basketball so far this season, Cummings led the team with 14 points as well as three assists. Syracuse was led in scoring by former Pitt commit Judah Mintz, who finished the half with nine points.
Pitt was the better team all half, leading by as much as 12 at one point. The first half ended with a score of 41-33, in favor of the Panthers.
Syracuse came out in the second half with a full-court press that led to some mixed results. It did force a few Panther turnovers, but also opened the game up and allowed Pitt to drive to the hoop more. This included one play in which both of those happened consecutively, with Pitt turning the ball over only to benefit from a missed Orange dunk, leading to an alley-oop.
Jesse Edwards, Syracuse’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, found himself adversely affected by this switch as he picked up his fourth foul with more than 15 minutes to play.
Federiko Federiko fouled out halfway through the second half, the first of many unfortunate events to follow. He finished with seven points and five rebounds on the night.
If you expected things to go smoothly from there, I can confirm that would not be the case. Pitt watched a 20-point lead dwindle continuously through the last ten minutes of the game. Unable to solve an energized Syracuse full-court press, the Panthers coughed up the ball time after time, just as Syracuse found their shooting stroke.
Following a Jamarius Burton offensive foul, Syracuse had the ball with 17 seconds to play, down 82-83. Blake Hinson played a Judah Mintz pass down low to Edwards perfectly, picking his pocket. Hinson was immediately fouled.
Hinson would only hit one of the two free throws, giving Syracuse one final chance with seven seconds left, down two.
Mintz scrambled down the court and took a three as time expired with two hands in his face, while simultaneously every Pitt fan held their breath, almost expecting a collapse of epic proportions at the hands of a past Pitt commit to come to fruition.
It was not to be, as the ball didn’t even find the rim, sending Pitt home from upstate New York with a win and a 2-0 ACC record.
- Pitt has showcased an ability to find different ways to win, a sign of a great team. In their last win over North Florida, they shot a singular three-pointer in the second half. Tonight they killed Syracuse from deep. Pitt is neither a three-point-reliant team nor a team that pounds it down low, they have a complete offensive identity that hasn’t been seen on any previous Capel squad.
- Pitt did look incredibly shaky against the press, and it allowed Syracuse to make what should have been a blowout second half an extremely uncomfortable affair. For a team that sits in the upper half of the ACC in assists per game, the passing could be crisper.
- There were points midway through the second half where the Panther’s basketball IQ should have been much higher. On more than one occasion shots were taken far too early in the shot clock when they could have milked the clock a bit more.
- This is officially Blake Hinson’s team, and he is playing like a potential ACC player of the year candidate.
What Is Next:
Pitt has a big ACC test coming to town, as they play North Carolina in their ACC home opener on December 30th.