Syracuse fails to stop Pitt comeback, losing to the Panthers 63-60

Syracuse falls to Pitt, 63-60

Robert Braswell IV scored a career high 12 points, a highlight of the loss.
Published: January 6, 2021
NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange forward Robert Braswell (20) shoots the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

In a down-to-the-wire loss, the Syracuse men’s basketball team fell to the Pittsburgh Panthers 63-60 after dropping an 18-point lead.

A last-minute schedule change resulted in Cuse tipping off against ACC rival Pittsburgh, a scene quite familiar to the Syracuse men’s basketball team this season. The Orange were originally scheduled to play Florida State but had to swap opponents due to COVID concerns within the Florida State program.

This is the Orange’s first game back since a brief halt in play due to possible exposure following their game against Buffalo on Dec. 19.

With the long pause and Bourama Sidibe still sidelined due to injury, uncertainty loomed ahead of the matchup. But Syracuse burst out of the starting gate with Alan Griffin sinking back-to-back threes, putting the Orange up 6-0 early in the first half.

A turnover by Pitt resulted in another three points for Syracuse, this time sunk by Buddy Boeheim to give the Orange a 9-0 lead. Griffin remained hot and added another two shortly after, giving Cuse an 11-point lead early on.

The combination of strong defense by Syracuse and many missed shots by Pitt kept the Panthers off the board for the first three minutes of the game. After a long pause of their own, having last played on Dec. 22, the Panthers were also missing top contenders in Justin Champagnie, Nike Sibande, Noah Collier and John Hugley, as well as Pitt assistant coach Jason Capel, due to either injury or COVID protocol.

Pitt’s Ithiel Horton put the Panthers on the board with a three-point bucket and a turnover by Syracuse resulted in another three-point play for Pitt after Abdoul Karim Coulibaly was fouled by Griffin on the completed basket. But Quincey Guerrier was quick to answer, sinking his first three of the night to accelerate the Orange to an eight-point lead.

Shortly after, Marek Dolezaj was fouled on the play and logged three more points, lifting the Orange to a 17-6 lead just over halfway through the first half of the contest. Boeheim then elevated Syracuse’s first half scoresheet by sinking a three-pointer to give Cuse a 14-point lead.

One of two from the line for Pitt ended Syracuse’s 9-0 run and brought them one point closer to the Orange.

Zero for 12 on three-point attempts heading into tonight’s matchup, Robert Braswell IV scored his first three pointer of the year, extending Syracuse’s lead to 23-7.

Following a tough game against Buffalo for Joe Girard III, only putting up two points, the sophomore guard finally sunk his first three of the night with nine minutes left in first half.

One for two on free throws for Pitt once again brought them to 26-10, shaving down the Syracuse lead by a single point.

The Panthers struggled to defend Syracuse’s big shooters, leaving them wide open the majority of the first half and gave them plenty of scoring opportunities throughout.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange forward Marek Dolezaj (21) shoots the ball between Pittsburgh Panthers guard Au'diese Toney (5) and forward Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (12) during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

Dolezaj lifted the Orange to an 18-point lead with a two-point basket with just over six minutes to go in the first half. Unable to be stopped, Dolezaj added another two shortly after.

Pitt saw a drought from beyond the arc, only finishing one of 10 from deep but did grab four points inside the arc to close in on Syracuse before the intermission, 30-14.

The Panthers grabbed one more at the line but Kadary Richmond answered quickly, extending Syracuse’s lead, 32-15.

Terrell Brown netted two points for Pitt with under a minute and a half to go and added another from the line to make it 32-18 with 30 seconds left in the first half.

A much different look from the Orange’s last couple of neck-and-neck games that saw second-half comebacks, Syracuse dominated the first half of their matchup against the Panthers, entering the second half up 32-18.

The halftime pep talk must have sparked something within the Pitt bench as the Panthers started the second half strong, nailing back-to-back three pointers to cut the Orange lead down to eight. An 11-0 run resulted from a turnover by Girard and a made jumper by Pitt, bringing them within six.

Girard sunk a three-pointer to strengthen Syracuse’s first-half lead, 35-26, but it was all Pitt from there to finish off the first five of the second half. Au’Diese Toney and Xavier Johnson grabbed five more points to bring the Panthers within a couple possessions of the Orange.

Braswell tallied a career high in points and three pointers made after hitting three back-to-back threes for Cuse, unwilling to let Pitt complete their comeback.

With a 44-33 lead, Richmond was sent to the line for Syracuse and added one more to the Cuse lead. Right behind him was Girard with a jumper, extending the Orange lead once again, 47-33.

A jumper for Richmond and a layup from Pitt’s Femi Odukale brought the score to 49-35 with just over 10 to go in regulation.

Coulibaly nabbed another two and Horton sunk a three to shorten Syracuse’s lead down to nine. But Griffin was quick to answer with four of his own, leading Pitt 53-41.

Unlike the first half, the newfound back-and-forth nature of the second half continued as Horton grabbed three to bring the Panthers within nine but Dolezaj answered with two from the line to increase their lead back to 11. Toney quickly quieted Syracuse’s excitement by sinking another three-point bucket with just under five and a half minutes left in the second half.

With under five minutes to go, Boeheim popped in a quick jumper to reignite the Orange flame, bringing the tally to 57-48. Pitt wasn’t finished though as Odukale and Brown brought the Panthers within five with back-to-back layups.

The second half brought a whole different ballgame as Brown brought the Panthers within three on a crucial dunk with just over two to go in regulation and Johnson tied up the game for the first time on the night at 57 a piece with 1:49 remaining.

The Orange battled back as Griffin retaliated with a three of his own to jump over Pitt, 60-57. But Odukale responded with a quick jumper and the Panthers were back within one with a minute to go.

A missed three by Horton was tipped in by Toney under the basket, giving the Panthers their first lead of the game with just eight seconds left in the second half.

Dolezaj was unable to inbound the ball to one of his own players, forcing a costly turnover and an inevitable foul by Girard that put Pitt up by three with two seconds to go.

“I think some people got confused and I was waiting to see if they go in the right spot and they didn’t so I kind of panicked and just threw the ball somewhere,” said Dolezaj. “But it’s on me, the last play is on me.”

Syracuse was unable to come back from the three-point deficit, ultimately resulting in a 63-60 Pitt win.

“We got shots that we can make and need to make, and we didn’t,” said head coach Jim Boeheim. “We missed too many shots the whole game, bottom line.”

The Orange will tip off against long-time rival Georgetown on Friday, Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. at home in the Dome.