Losing three of the last four, the Pitt Panthers welcome Syracuse to town Tuesday night, the team who began the tough stretch for the Panthers two weeks ago.
Pitt lost in frustrating fashion Saturday 75-48 at Clemson and was left picking up the pieces of another blowout defeat despite a formidable stretch weeks back finishing games in the final possession.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (7-12, 2-6) second matchup against the Syracuse Orange (9-10, 3-5).
Carrying Over from the Dome
Syracuse is in the midst of a back-and-forth season hovering around .500 but took care of business when the Panthers came to town 14 days ago. The Orange downed Pitt 77-61 at the Carrier Dome in front of over 15,000 fans and shot 51% on the day to take care of business.
The famous Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone was on full display and neutralized the Panthers’ toughness and strength down low. John Hugley only played 28 minutes, partly due to foul trouble, only recorded as many points as rebounds (8). Mouhamadou Gueye, Femi Odukale, and Jamarius Burton each totaled 14 points and Gueye 10 rebounds for his third double-double. Buddy Boheim finished with 24 points and three steals for Syracuse.
One main issue for Pitt was once again offensive production throughout the game and key moments when the contest was shifting away from a contested matchup. The team was doubled-up 32-16 on points in the paint. The Panthers were neutralized and needed to shoot the ball from long range to beat the zone. Pitt shot 7-22 on triples in the 16-point defeat. It doesn’t help that Pitt is last in the conference in three-point percentage at 30.1%, but marks the best way to attack offensively and force Syracuse to adjust and become uncomfortable.
The Panthers have lost their last two road games by a total of 43 points but return to the Pete trying to win three-of-four home games to start 2022. Hugley finished the Clemson game with 15 points and eight rebounds . The 6’9” 240-pound forward was also once again successful at the free-throw line (7-8) and on the offensive glass.
Hugley is a beast on the block for any ACC team, but manning a Pitt squad without a distinguished second option draws more attention to his abilities. Hugley is drawing double teams largely due to his toughness and agility around the basket but also other teams shifting their defense.
It’s obvious but true, opposing teams do not want Hugley to beat them and have shown they will take their chances with the likes of Gueye, Burton, or Odukale stepping up and hitting a shot in crunch time. A surprise from off the bench like Daniel Oladapo dropping 10+ points would also do the trick in assisting the starters like Burton who rarely leave the court.
Paint the Barn Orange
As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would say, if you have red paint… you paint the barn red. Boheim and company led by his two sons Buddy and Jimmy look to do just that for the Orange at the Petersen Events Center.
Syracuse enters Pittsburgh 4-6 in its last 10 and 20-point losers at No. 6 Duke Saturday 79-59. The Orange will once again display their well-known 2-3 zone to limit opposing offenses from attacking the basket and collapsing the paint as a result. The team shoots it well and is tied for 54th in the country in three-point percentage.
They also rank highly in steals forced (7.8), turnovers given up (11.7) and true shooting percentage (56%) to earn an offensive rating tied for 48th in the game. Despite these efforts, Syracuse is in almost no position to make the NCAA Tournament baring another miracle similar to last year and the 2017-18 season.
The Boeheim brothers have guided Syracuse playing the most minutes on the team. Buddy holds a 25.7 usage percentage scoring 18.6 points-per-game by only shooting 40% from the field. Jimmy totals 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds with an effective 47.5% tally from the floor. Syracuse deploys five players in double figures with Joseph Girard (13.6), Cole Swider (12.6), and Jesse Edwards (12.2) key contributors to the strong offensive team.
Syracuse is favored by 4 points on the road in Tuesday morning’s latest odds.
Pitt is 14-5 against the spread this year and has been strong being underdogs.
The over/under for the contest is set at 139.5 points and Pitt is +165 on the money line.
Syracuse has hit the over 10 times this season and went over the 139.5 mark 14 times. Pitt games this year are averaging a 131.5-point over/under.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Syracuse and Pitt matchup will air on the ACC Network Saturday night at 8 p.m. Dave O’Brien and Cory Alexander have the call.
The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt plays Boston College on the road Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. for the final game of January.