By Chris Ramirez
Pittsburgh, PA – Tray Woodall led the Panthers with 13 points, as Pittsburgh handed sixth-ranked Syracuse its second straight loss with a 65-55 decision. The Panthers (18-5, 6-4 Big East) had 10 players reach the scoring column and won for the fifth time in their last six games, while also improving to 13-1 all-time against top-10 teams at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh has won nine of the last 11 matchups with Syracuse and five in a row against the Orange at home.
“We are really excited about the rebounding, obviously,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “I thought we attacked the zone really well and we all know how good their defense is. I thought we did a great job of getting the ball to the right guys, running our sets and our motion movement. We did a great job on the glass and that’s what we wanted to do. I told them [our guys], we had to out-rebound them by 15, and we did out-rebound them by 15 (39-24).”
C.J. Fair scored 20 points and Brandon Triche added 14 for Syracuse (18-3, 6-2), which hadn’t played since an overtime loss at Villanova last Saturday and has now dropped two in a row for the first time since Feb. 9-12, 2011. “I think they’re the best rebounding team in the league, in my mind, and they took advantage of that in the second half. That was really the difference in the game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
The Orange utilized just a seven-man rotation. James Southerland remains sidelined because of an eligibility issue, while freshman center DaJuan Coleman underwent knee surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for at least a month. Pittsburgh opened a six-point lead early in the second half, but Syracuse tied it at 35-35 on a layup by Triche with 12 1/2 minutes to play. Cameron Wright then drilled a three as the shot clock expired on the next Pittsburgh possession and the Panthers never trailed again.
Lamar Patterson added a basket before a free throw by Dante Taylor extended the Pitt lead to 41-35. A three by Durand Johnson with just under six minutes to play pushed the advantage to 48-39. The Orange got only as close as five from there, the last time at 55-50 on a layup by Fair with 1:21 left. Pitt followed with six straight for an 11-point cushion.
Steven Adams and J.J. Moore each scored eight points for the Panthers, while Patterson and Wright each contributed seven. The Pittsburgh bench outscored the Syracuse reserves 31-3.
Syracuse used an 8-0 run to open a 12-5 edge early in the contest, but Pittsburgh rebounded with nine of the next 11 points to tie it at 14-14. A three by Woodall with just under 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half gave the Panthers a 21-18 lead and Pitt went to the break with a 27-25 margin.