Syracuse squeaks by Pitt to stay unbeaten
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis scored 16 points, including two driving layups and two free throws in the final 2 minutes, and No. 2 Syracuse beat No. 22 Pittsburgh 59-54 on Saturday in a battle for first place in the ACC between the two former Big East rivals.
Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered the game 2-0 against former Big East rivals, with victories over St. John's and Villanova. The Orange made it three straight and remained one of only three unbeatens in Division I. In four of the past five seasons, Syracuse has started with at least 13 consecutive wins, and twice in the last four years Pitt (16-2, 4-1) had stopped those streaks.
In a seesaw game that was tight all the way, Ennis, encouraged by coach Jim Boeheim to take more shots, won it by hitting a scoop with 1:47 left and a lefty layup with 30.6 seconds to go as the crowd of 30,046 shook the Carrier Dome with deafening roars. Pitt had chances to tie it, but Lamar Patterson missed two 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes and Cameron Wright missed another. Patterson finished with 18 points, 14 in the second half. Pitt shot 38.3 percent (18 of 47) and
Syracuse finished at 51.2 percent (21 of 41). C.J. Fair had 13 points, Jerami Grant added 12 and Rakeem Christmas had 10 for Syracuse, which won despite being pounded 16-4 on the offensive glass as Pitt finished with a 19-2 edge in second-chance points. James Robinson, who leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, had six points, four assists and one turnover for Pitt and Talib Zanna finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. In an 81-74 victory at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, Pitt won by dominating the glass 38-18. It was the Panthers' closest victory of the season, the first 15 coming by an average of 17.8 points, including ACC wins over North Carolina State (74-62), Maryland (79-59) and Wake Forest (80-65).
Pitt's lone loss was 44-43 to Cincinnati in the Jimmy V Classic in mid-December. Syracuse, accustomed to close games all season, led by four at halftime and quickly extended it early in the second half. Grant's one-handed floater in the lane capped a 7-0 spurt and a 3 by Ennis from the left wing gave Syracuse a 37-27 lead with 14:27 left. Pitt erased most of that in a hurry as Patterson drained three 3-pointers in a 65-second span to narrow the lead to 39-36. He hit two from the wing and on the third he was wide open from the top of the key as Boeheim fumed on the bench.
The Panthers entered the game leading the ACC with a 48.8 field goal shooting percentage but found little room to roam inside the Syracuse zone. Pitt shot 37 percent (9 of 25) and hit just 1 of 7 3-pointers in the first half. It was Pitt's second game without sixth man Durand Johnson, who sustained a season-ending injury to his right knee in last Saturday's victory over Wake Forest. The sophomore forward was blossoming as the first man off the bench, averaging 8.8 points and ranking second on the team with 22 3-pointers. In 2009-10, Syracuse won its first 13 games, then lost 82-72 to unranked Pitt in the Carrier Dome. The next season Syracuse won its first 18 games before the Panthers stopped that streak with a 74-66 win in Pittsburgh. Under coach Jamie Dixon, Pitt entered the game 10-4 against Syracuse, 5-1 in the Carrier Dome.