Syracuse men’s basketball falls short in comeback against Pitt
SU men's hoops loses comeback bid vs. Pitt
The first half rims weren’t kind to the Orangemen. Star freshman Judah Mintz, fresh off a second consecutive ACC Rookie of the Week nomination, paced the team with 9 points in the 1st half, but it was Pitt’s Nelly Cummings who set the tone for the Panthers, hitting four threes en route to a game-high 14 points in the 1st half. Blake Hinson, Pitt’s leading scorer coming into the matchup at over 16 a game, chipped in 11 for Pitt, and they took a somewhat commanding 41-33 lead into halftime. Jesse Edwards was the second leading scorer for SU behind Mintz with six points, and you see the difficulty and hesitancy Pitt guards used in attacking the paint because Edwards was there.
He had an impressive stretch early in the 2nd half where he blocked two consecutive jumpers from Hinson, showing that defensive instinct that NBA teams will covet at the next level. However, Jesse picked up his 2nd foul near the end of the 1st half and proceeded to pick up his third and fourth before the first under-16-minute media timeout in the 2nd half. Pitt opened up the 2nd half hot, forcing Coach Boeheim to a timeout less than two minutes in the second half after Pitt’s lead ballooned to 14. Edwards picked up his 3rd foul at the 17-minute mark.
Quadir Copeland and Maliq Brown both came in the game and provided energy off the bench for SU, including a nice stretch in the second half with a layup from Copeland and an ensuing Brown steal to cut the lead to 10, but Cummings, the Colgate transfer with a large contingent in the Dome rooting him on, continued his hot shooting, with six 3’s en route to 22 points.
Copeland’s 4-point play with 7 minutes left to cut the Panther lead to 7 was as close as they got for a while. However, around the 3-minute mark in the 2nd half, some late-game heroics led the Orange back. A blistering 10-2 run over the last minute of the game included two fadeaway Joe Girard 3-pointers, a Copeland layup, and a steal. Judah Mintz took a charge on Pitt’s 2nd-to-last offensive possession to give SU the ball back to tie or take the lead with 48 seconds left potentially. Hinson split a pair of FTs after a Mintz turnover and Jesse Edwards’ fifth foul, but on the game’s final possession, a wild and out-of-control Mintz mid-range jumper rattled off, and Pitt snuck out of the Dome with a 2-point win. SU could not overcome poor shooting and complete the comeback bid at the beginning of their conference slate, and coach Jim Boeheim seemed to have a straightforward reason for his team’s loss tonight.
“We just had no effort from our forwards, from the beginning,” Boeheim said. “It’s hard to watch. Q [Quadir Copeland] is 6’4. He came in and had six rebounds in 12 minutes.
“Benny and Chris got one rebound between the two of them, each in 12 minutes. You can’t win that way, and it’s really hard to watch that as a coach.”
Copeland was a crucial piece in that 2nd half near-comeback, pouring in 10 points, two blocks, and a steal, and speaking to the media after the game, he explained how he maintains his energy and impact despite not knowing how many minutes he’ll get on a night to night basis.
“Coach tells us before every game, you never know when your time’s gonna come,” Copeland said. “I could have played zero minutes today, and my mindset didn’t change because I played 12. It’s all about mindset, keeping a steady mind, and just trusting yourself and knowing your time is going to come, and you’ll get your chance, and when it comes, you got to take it.”
Bell and Williams have been under the microscope this season for their inconsistency the whole year, and it was especially apparent when in comparison to Pitt’s Blake Hinson.
Hinson poured in a 20-10 game for the Panthers, with 25 points and 13 rebounds, consistently making plays and shots in the middle of SU’s zone. SU’s next game will be on the last day of the year, Dec. 31, at 2 p.m. in the Dome, as the Orange look to secure their 2nd conference win before the turn of the calendar.