PITTSBURGH — On a night that Pitt was celebrating this year’s senior class, the Panthers ended up celebrating another accomplishment by that same class: first place in the ACC.
Six different Panthers — including seniors Nelly Cummings, Greg Elliott, Nike Sibande, and Jamarius Burton — scored in double figures, as Pitt beat Syracuse 99-82 in front of a sold-out Petersen Events Center on Saturday night.
The senior group did it all, leading Pitt to an ACC-best 14-4 record at the end of the night after earning its second win over the Orange this year.
Pitt honored Sibande — the longest tenured of the senior contributors — with a spot in the starting lineup on Saturday. The Indianapolis native did not disappoint, flying through the lane for the dunk of the year, hitting two threes in the second half, and finishing with 10 points in the win.
Cummings delivered an all-around performance, scoring 14, dishing out 13 assists, and hitting two threes in the win. Elliott shined in the second half, hitting five of his six three-point tries in the latter frame and finishing with 19 points. Burton turned in a complete performance, scoring 14, grabbing nine rebounds, and passing out eight assists.
Lastly, senior Aidan Fisch delivered a layup in the final seconds to cap off his career at the Petersen Events Center and ignite the crowd one last time for the season.
The senior class, paired with Federiko Federiko’s 14-point, six-rebound performance, Blake Hinson’s 22 points, and Guillermo Diaz-Graham’s massive effort off the bench, trumped the Syracuse 2-3 zone with a three-point barrage and some timely inside buckets.
Mid-way through the second half, Diaz-Graham miraculously swatted away a Mounir Hima dunk attempt, Pitt stormed down the floor, and Cummings took it coast to coast to build the Panther lead up to 13 with more than ten minutes to go.
After Syracuse cut the lead down to single digits once more, Pitt ran away with the victory with big buckets from just about everyone who checked in.
Pitt caught fire out of the gates, igniting the sold-out Petersen Events Center crowd into a frenzy with a 9-2 run to open play.
However, Syracuse’s Joe Girard and Benny Williams made the Panthers pay in the first half, combining for 23 points. The Panthers’ offense slowed down due to its unfamiliarity with the infamous 2-3 zone ran by the Orange, and the game went into half with a score of 37-33.
Syracuse couldn’t quite keep up with the Panthers throughout the second half. Williams finished as the leading scorer with 24 points, Girard added 19, and Judah Mintz added 16.
With the win, Pitt advances to 21-8 on the season and 14-4 in the ACC. Miami lost to Florida State on Saturday, giving Pitt first place spot in the ACC.
Pitt will now head to South Bend to take on Notre Dame on Tuesday, March 1 with tip off set for 7 p.m. The Irish are currently 10-18 on the year and 2-15 in ACC play.