Bench leads SU to win over Pitt

Bench leads SU to win over Pitt

Three takeaways: Copeland, Brown and Williams led the Orange to an 81-73 signature win.

Syracuse's Judah Mintz (#3) takes a shot during the ACC game on Saturday, Dec. 30, at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Kayla Breen
Syracuse’s Judah Mintz takes a shot during the ACC game against Pitt on Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome.

In a game that Syracuse men’s basketball needed, head coach Adrian Autry’s team was able to erase a double-digit deficit in an 81-73 triumph over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday afternoon at the JMA Wireless Dome.

The Orange outscored the Panthers 51-35 over the final 20 minutes to grab its first ACC win of the season.

Sophomore guard Quadir Copeland, sophomore forward Maliq Brown and junior forward Benny Williams were the team’s three leading scorers despite all coming off the bench and each played a part in Syracuse’s come-from-behind victory.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s win:

Syracuse's Maliq Brown (#1) looks for an open teammate during Saturday's game against Pitt at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Kayla Breen
Syracuse’s Maliq Brown looks for an open teammate during Saturday’s game against Pitt.

More magic from the bench

44, 40 and now 52.

Those have been the outputs from Syracuse’s bench in the last three games. On Saturday, the Orange bench outscored Pitt’s 52-17.

“We don’t rely on five guys,” Autry said. “We rely on eight, nine, 10 guys. This is how this team is built.”

The Orange reserves once again powered them to victory in a game where Copeland had 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Brown had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Williams had 15 and seven.

All three made crucial plays as the Orange tried to seal the comeback down the stretch.

Much of Brown’s work came as SU opened the second half on a 14-3 run. He also scored to break a 61-61 tie with less than five minutes left. Brown held his own against the bigger Panthers frontline and was key in turning a wide rebounding deficit into a positive margin by the end of the game.

Williams threw down a series of dunks to get the Dome crowd into a frenzy. He scored to increase the lead to 67-61 with 3:37 remaining, made both ends of a one-and-one, and threw down his final slam of the afternoon to make it 71-63 with 2:27 remaining.

“I thought Benny was great,” Autry said. “He came in with great energy and you could just see it in the last couple of weeks, he’s just been taking that turn and I’m just so excited for him because he stayed with it.”

And then, there was Copeland. While he still provided some anxious moments down the stretch, he scored 16 in the second half and overcame his struggles from the free-throw line to make 13-of-15 attempts from the charity stripe.

And, of course, he brought the energy.

“I’m just looking to see how much I can make an impact on the game,” Copeland said. “I feel like I’m the energy-changer. If the game’s going good, I’m going to make it go better. If it’s not, I’m gonna try and get it right back on track.”

The Charity Stripe

Many Syracuse fans are familiar with being on the other side of this one.

The Orange made 24-of-30 (80%) of its attempts from the foul line while the Panthers could only muster an 11-of-24 (46%) performance.

This disparity was on display late in the game as the Panthers missed some costly front ends of one-and-one opportunities while Syracuse was 10-of-12 from the line in the final four minutes of action.

Copeland’s 13-of-15 performance was particularly impressive considering he came into the game as just a 65% shooter from the line.

SU's J.J. Starling (#2) and Judah Mintz (#3) celebrate after a dunk by Starling on Saturday.
Kayla Breen
SU’s J.J. Starling and Judah Mintz celebrate after a dunk by Starling on Saturday.

Résumé booster

Syracuse came into the game ranked 83rd in the NCAA’s NET ratings, while Pitt entered the afternoon ranked 41st.

According to the metrics, it was easily SU’s best victory of the season.

While this will not be a highly sought-after Quadrant 1 win, the victory did improve Syracuse’s record to 2-1 against Quadrant 2 teams.

Syracuse will have several chances to win games against higher-ranked teams, but if it wants to make its first NCAA Tournament since 2021, these are the types of wins the team needs to keep picking up.

The Orange will have a Quadrant 1 opportunity on Tuesday at Duke. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.