Just two weeks after falling to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Jeff Capel’s Pitt Panthers are preparing to once again go up against the Orange, this time at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
In that first matchup against the Orange, Pitt’s offense looked solid in the first half, but sharply took a turn for the worst in the second. In that second frame, the Panthers only made five of their 21 field goals, a 24% mark.
Pitt was led by a trio of 14-point scorers: Jamarius Burton, Femi Odukale, and Mo Gueye, who each played more than 37 minutes in the loss. While those three contributed with strong offensive efforts early, the team’s leading scorer on the year, John Hugley, went just 1 of 6 from the field, finishing with eight points in the game.
“We hope that he is more comfortable,” Capel said about Hugley facing Syracuse for a second time. “That was his first time ever playing against Syracuse. For most people, the first time you play against them, it’s different. It’s not a traditional zone. It’s not the zone that most people play or, in John’s case, a zone you maybe saw in high school. It’s very, very different. The way their movements are in it, the rotations in it, the length in it, and things like that. So we’re hopeful that he is way more comfortable this time. I hope our whole team is more comfortable this time against it than we were the first time.”
Heading into that last matchup in Syracuse, Pitt was riding a one-game winning streak after taking down Boston College at home. However, the 16-point loss to the Orange felt like a step backwards for a team that had shown fight in most of its losses all year.
While the Panthers certainly had their fair share of struggles on the defensive end, giving up 77 points to the prolific ‘Cuse offense, it all stemmed from trouble on the offensive side of things. Pitt, a group of players that, for the most part, has never played with one another prior to this season, struggled mightily against the famous 2-3 zone that Syracuse’s long-time head coach Jim Boeheim has led for years.
“I think Coach Boeheim recruits to it, they believe in it, and it’s different,” Capel said about the zone. “It’s different from a traditional 2-3 zone. The zone can morph. Throughout the season, there are different adjustments that they can make to it, and they’re really good at it. They practice it all the time, and it’s not something that you see on a daily basis. Most of the teams play man-to-man, or a variety of man-to-man. So it’s something that is pretty unique, and they do a heck of a job of teaching it and recruiting to it.”
Tuesday night’s contest will tip off at 8 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center, and will be televised on ACC Network.