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Pittsburgh-Syracuse Recap OR Bound to Lose Eventually

CJ Fair with starter's minutes. Go figure...

Going into this game at the Petersen Events Center, Syracuse was a perfect 18-0 (5-0 Big East). They were without leading scorer Kris Joseph. They had never won at the Pete other than that initial victory several years ago now. The cards were stacked against them. And then Pitt starts the game on a 19-0 run. If that's where the recap ends, other than me saying that Syracuse lost 74-66, you sit there and you say "Well, that was expected." But for anyone who watched that game from beginning (or at the eventual cut-in) to end, you know that doesn't even begin to tell the story. And you know that Syracuse had a million chances to win that game. But at the end of the day, most of us expected a loss, and a loss is what we got. How did we get there?
  • After one of the worst starts I have ever witnessed (Pitt starting on a 19-0 run), Syracuse answered with a run of its own: 17-0. A couple more runs on each side led to a Pittsburgh 31-27 lead at the half.
  • I'd like to just end the recap there. Say that this team showed tremendous poise and perseverance in overcoming a 19-0 deficit, making it close, and just coming up short. But there was a whole other half to play.
  • The second half was at times exciting, and at times frustratingly horrible. A 3-pointer by James Southerland with 13:52 remaining tied the game at 41 each. Unfortunately, that was the closest Syracuse would get to Pitt, who never trailed in this one.
  • For the first time, the starting 5 was: Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, James Southerland, and Fab Melo.
  • Fab Melo played that initial two minutes, and then was sent to the bench the rest of the game.
  • Melo's benching made room for both Dion Waiters and CJ Fair, who clocked in at 25 and 36 minutes respectively. Waiters mainly took the place of Triche, who was absent without much of an explanation (at least I haven't heard one as of publication time).
  • Fair was the leading scorer with 16 points. His other stats: 9 rebounds (5 offensive), 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers. While he was by no means electric (especially on defense), it was great to get production and minutes off the bench like that, and have him in the right place at the right time to swashbuckle as many points as he did. He's quickly becoming the next Josh Pace, both in style of play and in importance at keeping this team together (see also, Glue Guy). He's got a long way to go (especially on defense) but he's a freshman, and that has to get you excited.
  • Other Orangemen in double digits included Scoop Jardine with 12, Triche with 11, and Jackson with 10.
  • With his 11 rebounds, Jackson records another double-double. He logged 39 minutes, and also chipped in 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. With both Melo and Baye Moussa Keita (6 minutes) seeing limited action, Jackson was pretty much Syracuse's only big presence inside, and he certainly made the most of it at both ends of the floor. Without Ricky, Syracuse doesn't stay in this game as long as it did.
  • James Southerland had a pretty solid outing in his first start, for the injured Kris Joseph: 8 points, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in 38 minutes. He also left a lot to be desired on defense -- especially at rebounding -- but given the situation it was nice to see him perform as he did.
  • Scoop being Scoop. I'm not going to harp too much on him. All 12 of his points came from the long ball which, on the one hand is encouraging because that means he made 4; but is discouraging because that means he shot like Cincy did the other day inside the arc.
  • On the Pitt side of things, they were pretty much as advertised, and more. They're always a big, physical team, and they showed it. They won the rebounding battle 41-27 (with Gary "The Predator" McGhee pulling down 13) .
  • Other than killing us on the boards, McGhee was almost a non-factor stat-wise. He only scored 4 points in 27 minutes of action. What the stats don't show is the jawing he started with Ricky. Much to his credit, Ricky would not be intimidated, which is what I think McGhee was going for -- Ricky gave it right back to him, which caused the officials at one point to stop play to warn both of them to not be so physical.
  • Brad Wanamaker somehow had a quiet 15 points. Maybe I just wasn't playing close enough attention, but it just seemed like his number wasn't called as much as I expected it to be.
  • The big stats to look at here which I believe led to the Pitt victory: the rebounding margin mentioned above; Pitt shooting 48.2% from the floor vs. Syracuse 39.1%; all the empty Syracuse possessions down the stretch. More on that next.
  • Let me start in the second half with 7:23 to go. Scoop turns the ball over, 57-51. 6:48 Southerland misses a jumper, 59-53. 6:09 Waiters misses a 3, 62-53. 5:26 Scoop is fouled and misses both free throws, 64-53. 4:38 CJ misses a jumper, 65-56. 3:44 Triche turnover, 67-57. 3:10 Triche heaves a 3 and misses, still 67-57. 2:32 Waiters' dunk is blocked, still 67-57. 1:44 Southerland misses a 3, still 67-57. :58 Jackson turnover, 70-62. :54 Scoop misses a layup, 70-62. :26 Waiters misses a 3, 72-64. :03 Waiters misses a 3, game over.
  • That was as frustrating to type out as it was to watch.
  • I want to give a big thumbs down to ESPN for showing the end of the KState/Missouri game, which was not even close, instead of switching to this game's tip-off. The least you could have done was go split-screen until the end of that horrible Big-12 game.
  • There's a new attendance record at the Pete, which was smashed tonight by 5 more people than the previous record. Congratulations. Impressive. I'm pretty sure I could get 12,925 people to show up for something.
  • For some perspective, the Carrier Dome will have about 2.5 times that many in attendance this Saturday against Villanova.
So after all that, this is still the first notch in the loss column. It hurts, probably more than another loss would, since this is the first of the season. But let's face it, Syracuse was going to lose at some point. No way in Hell they make it through the entire Big East schedule unblemished. Best to get it out of the way this relatively early, so that they know what losing feels like and hopefully not replicate it. Now this does, of course, put a lot of pressure on the game Saturday against Villanova. While this game was a game of runs, we certainly can't let the season become a season of runs. No losing streaks! So, while it's never good to lose, losing this one hurts, but this one loss does not ruin a season. This team showed us that it can turn things up and make things interesting, so I think this loss showed us a lot of what this team is made of, and proved to these players that they grew up a little tonight. This should only help them down the stretch, especially once they regain full roster strength.
Stay tuned to Orange::44 throughout the week for full coverage on the upcoming matchup with the Wildcats!

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1 Responses to “Pittsburgh-Syracuse Recap OR Bound to Lose Eventually”

  1. # Blogger Sarsh722

    Agreed - the game was a heartbreaker, especially with Kris Joseph out, but I think it will be a wake-up call.

    Also, as one of the fortunate few Orange fans to get tickets for the game, I have to say I'm officially over the hype about the Pete and it's consecutive sellouts. For perspective, it holds 5,000 fewer people than the number of undergrads enrolled at Pitt. There were several moments when the crowd was absolutely DEAD - not during SU's 17-0 run, later in the second half as they were beginning to pull away. On more than one occasion my friend and I commented that the Dome would be rocking if it was the same situation a few hundred miles north.

    Bottom line, we'll see what happens in March.  

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