Snapping a two-game losing streak, the Pitt Panthers earned its first ACC victory in four tries Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers defeated Boston College 69-67 and now turns their attention to Syracuse Tuesday night looking to begin a conference win streak.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (6-9, 1-3) fifth ACC game against the Syracuse Orange (7-8, 1-3).
Riding the Backs of Hugley
At some points during the season the answer has been clear, jump on John Hugley’s back and see how far he can carry the program. When he is not being double teamed consistently or in foul trouble the blueprint has worked, but matchups against other physical teams can punch a hole in the game plan. Hugley was terrific against Boston College totaling game-highs in points (32) and rebounds (13) as the best player on the floor.
Averaging 15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and a 31% usage rate, Hugley is by far the most dependable Panther and can also knock down free throws for a 6’9” big. Femi Odukale and Jamarius Burton are also large components to the team’s success, but Hugley creates an added dynamic that fits like a glove in the Panthers’ recipe for success.
The Cleveland, Ohio native will continue to be a major contributing factor and set the tone. Hugley is an important presence for Jeff Capel’s team and also provides leadership when needed most.
The return of Ithiel Horton was short lived for the Panthers as the dynamic guard was placed back on suspension. Charges against Horton were dropped on December 30 but reissued by the court on Saturday. With Horton out indefinitely once again, Pitt faces another hurdle to overcome after believing they may have him for the bulk of ACC play.
Adversity has been a common theme during the Jeff Capel era and especially this season. Excluding Jacksonville (a nine-point win), Pitt’s last eight games have been decided by four points or fewer, an astounding figure as to having tightly contested every game is. It speaks to the way in which Pitt expects to win and needs to bring to the table to have a chance. Battling on the boards and defensive side has made Pitt fans turn heads on what was a drowsy outlook to knowing they will be in practically every game.
Competitive spirit and edge have a knack for taking over and Pitt has some players who understand and realize their roles and opportunities to contribute. It helps that the ACC is facing a down season and lacking top-tier talent on numerous teams, but competing in what’s typically known as college basketball’s best conference is always an accomplishment.
Painting the Picture Orange
Syracuse enters game action one game under .500 and is having historically one of the worst seasons ever delivered during the Jim Boeheim era. The team is 1-3 in the ACC but still performs well in numerous offensive categories. The Orange are 33rd in the land with a 37.7% mark from three, tied for 74th in steals averaging eight-per-game, and hold an offensive rating of 110, in the top 76 of all teams.
One major problem has been keeping up with their opponents. Syracuse owns a 107.2 defensive rating, 320th in college basketball, and has lost three-straight ACC contests. Syracuse lost to Virginia, Miami, and Wake Forest (in overtime) by a combined nine points and the latter two games being on the road. Syracuse is 5-2 at home this season.
The Orange have struggled early in season campaigns to mold and form chemistry, but in winnable games to start ACC action struggled to find their footing and close out winnable games. Uncharacteristic of a Boeheim team, Syracuse is due for a change in the cards despite not containing a loaded roster.
Jim’s son Buddy Boeheim has continued to make a name for himself at the university being named preseason All ACC in his senior season. Its a family affair in New York as Jimmy Boeheim is now also a part of the team, Buddy’s brother transferring from Cornell as a graduate student. Buddy is averaging a team-high 18.6 points while Jimmy is second with 14.6 points as well as 6.1 rebounds.
Syracuse is favored by a lofty 10.5 points at the Carrier Dome in Tuesday morning’s latest odds.
Pitt ended last season 11-10-1 against the spread. The Panthers have covered 11 times in 15 opportunities and are 4-0 when 10-point underdogs.
The over/under for the battle of two Big East opponents is set at 140 points and Pitt is +420 on the money line.
Syracuse is 9-7 against the spread and have totaled the over in points between the two teams nine times.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Syracuse and Pitt matchup will air on ESPNU Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Mike Couzens and Dan Bonner have the call.
The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt returns home for a two-game homestand beginning with Louisville on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Panthers lost the first matchup 75-72 at the KFC Yum! Center last week on January 5.