SYRACUSE, N.Y. —
Pitt dug itself a huge hole on Saturday against Syracuse, falling behind by 20 points early in the first half.
The Panthers turning things around, making a late-first-half run to close the gap and then doing so further in the second half, working the deficit all the way to three before eventually losing, 69-61 to the Orange.
In most games, the comeback might put a bit of a nicer face on a loss, but would ultimately be meaningless at the end of the day.
When Pitt twice came back from double-digit deficits before eventually losing at Miami, the comeback charges didn’t provide more solace than the poor play that led to those deficits provided angst.
But against the Orange, it’s a bit different. Saturday was the first time these Panthers had seen the Syracuse zone, including regulars Justin Champagnie, Gerald Drumgoole, Eric Hamilton and Ryan Murphy.
For returners like Terrell Brown, Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney, they needed to incorporate new players and this year’s scheme into a way to beat the Orange.
When Champagnie got into early foul trouble, it thew that scheme out of whack and that eventually proved to be the difference in the game.
But the comeback matters, because with Champagnie on the floor, Pitt was much more effective against the Orange. In individual plus/minus, he was a plus-7. Brown at plus-1 was the only other Pitt player in the positives. Toney was minus-12 and McGowens was minus-15.
“I thought we had a better rhythm of how to attack the zone in the second half,” head coach Jeff Capel said. “We weren’t on our heels. I thought we did a better job, but we dug ourselves a little bit too deep of a hole to get out of.”
The reason that the comeback matter so much is that Panthers will get another crack at enacting that game plan against the Orange, when Syracuse comes to Petersen Events Center on Feb. 26.
“Now we know exactly what we’ve got to prepare for,” Champagnie said. “It’s just a matter of going out there, executing the plays and doing what we’ve got to do.”