Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pittsburgh Hands Syracuse First Loss of the Season

The opening 8 minutes inside the Petersen Events Center last night were something out of a horror movie if you're a Syracuse fan. As Pittsburgh made basket after basket and Syracuse missed shot after shot and carelessly turned the ball over the crowd only grew louder and louder as Syracuse fans everywhere were left saying "the horror, the horror!" When the dust had settled the Pittsburgh Panthers had jumped out to a 19-0 lead on the #3 Syracuse Orangemen.

Then a spark went off, and at the 11:56 mark Scoop Jardine finally hit a 3-pointer to put the Cuse on the board. That bucket sparked a 17-0 run for the Orangemen to miraculously push the score to 19-17 with 6:08 left in the first half. Even Dick Vitale, who has been saying the same four phrases since 1985, was left speechless at the Orangemen's dramatic turn around.

James Southerland drilled a three pointer with 34 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 1 point, however with 3 seconds left in the half Ashton Gibbs knocked down a 3-pointer of his own to put Pittsburgh back up 4 points at the break. It was that kind of night.

The Orangemen and the Panthers would trade blows to open the 2nd half, and with 13:52 on the game clock James Southerland swished a 3-pointer to tie the game 41-41. The Orangemen were in business. The Cuse had clawed back, overcame a 19-0 run and the most hostile building in the nation and had evened the scored early in the second half.

Unfortunately, those good vibrations only lasted 16 seconds, because Travon Woodall came down the court for Pittsburgh and knocked down a 3-pointer of his own to give Pittsburgh a 44-41 lead. Just like that, the wind was right back out of the Cuse's sails.

That 3-pointer with 13:36 remaining was the ball game, as Syracuse was never able to mount another run inside the Petersen Events Center. Final score 74-66 Pittsburgh. Syracuse was denied matching the best start in school history, and with the loss are 18-1 on the season, 5-1 in Big East play. This was Pittsburgh's 5th straight win over Syracuse, and 13th win in the last 16 contests.

In the absence of Kris Joseph, James Southerland got the start. Southerland played 38 minutes and shot 3 of 8 from the field for 8 points. Unfortunately he only grabbed 1 rebound all game. Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche all combined for ZERO rebounds for Syracuse, who were out-rebounded 41-27 by Pittsburgh.

Rick Jackson was the usual rock for the Orangemen that he's been all season. He had a team high 11 rebounds and 10 points while notching his 12th double-double of the season. Jackson also picked up 2 assists 3 steals 3 blocks and turned the ball over just once while staying out of foul trouble all night.

C.J. Fair came in off the bench for the Orangemen and played 36 extremely strong minutes, leading Syracuse in scoring with 16 points and pulled down 9 rebounds (5 on the offensive glass) while blocking 2 shots. Fair was extremely impressive while Syracuse mounted a 17-0 run in the 1st half, as was freshman Dion Waiters who played 25 minutes.

Waiters scored 9 points and had 6 rebounds 3 assists 2 steals while making 1 turnover, and was a big spark for Syracuse off the bench while the other two guards, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche struggled. Jardine was 4 of 13 from the floor, and all 4 of his made shots were 3-pointers. Triche wasn't much better, shooting 4 of 9 from the floor. When Syracuse needed both players to step up with Kris Joseph out, neither responded as Orangemen fans would have hoped, but thankfully Syracuse had C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters ready to play off the bench.

In one miraculous statistic, Syracuse only turned the ball over seven times to Pittsburgh's twelve. So that's one bright spot. Another is the way Syracuse fought to get back into the game after they were seemingly run out of the gym in the games opening 8 minutes.

The Orangemen could have just packed it in, however they dug deep and found a way to score points while clamping down on defense on the other end. Syracuse held Pittsburgh off the scoreboard for nearly 6 minutes after allowing 19 unanswered points. That is definitely something to hang their hats on. As was the play from C.J. Fair.

The #3 Syracuse Orangemen return to the court on Saturday at 12:00PM when they take on the #7 Villanova Wildcats in the Carrier Dome on ESPN. If you don't already have tickets you might want to get on that, as ticket sales have already passed the 31,000 mark. If you are going to the game, I know it's early, but please make some noise.

The Cuse Connection will be making their first visit to the Carrier Dome this season for the game, and will be tweeting live all weekend from Marshall St. and the Carrier Dome. Be sure to follow us on twitter @CuseConnection to stay up to the minute with all the action.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

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