SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Pitt has played in plenty of hostile environments this season, having already taken trips to Iowa, West Virginia and NC State before traveling to Syracuse on Saturday.
The prospect of playing in front of a rowdy road crowd — even the NCAA-best 24,466 that braved the snow storm to pack into the cavernous Carrier Dome — hasn’t rattled the Panthers this year.
But the Orange’s legendary 2-3 zone seemed to be the first thing to trip up Pitt all season, as the Panthers had their lowest offensive output of the season in a 74-63 loss to Syracuse.
The zone tempts teams to shoot over it, the dome is a notoriously tough shooting backdrop, and 7-foot-2 center Pascal Chukwu waiting at the rim. The Panthers shot just 35.5 percent from the floor. Pitt also turned the ball over 17 times, giving the Orange 26 points off turnovers.
In fact, it seemed that Pitt’s offense frustrations also leaked into the Panthers’ defense. Pitt entered the game ninth in effective field goal percentage against and eighth in three-point field goal percentage defense, but the Orange seemed to get plenty of good looks at the basket against Pitt’s defense, with both back-door cuts and open 3-pointers available. Syracuse shot 46.3 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
Leading the charge from outside was Tyus Battle, who had 22 points and was 3 of 7 from long range, and Buddy Boeheim, who came off the bench to hit 4 of 5 from beyond the arc for 12 points.
Senior wing Jared Wilson-Frame had 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting to lead the Panthers. Xavier Johnson scored 17 points, extending his streak of double-digit scoring to 18 games to start his career.
The Panthers played most of the first half without starting shooting guard Trey McGowens, who was forced to leave the game with a cut on his face. He was held without a point in the first half and finished with just seven points.
Up next, Pitt (12-6, 2-3 in ACC) will host No. 1 Duke on Tuesday. The Blue Devils are hosting No. 4 Virginia later on Saturday.