|Despite a valiant effort, Rick Jackson and SU couldn't overcome the Pitt Panthers|
The Syracuse Orange 18 game winning streak came to end tonight in SU's personal house of horrors, the Petersen Events Center, as the Orange fell to the Pitt Panthers 74-66. Pittsburgh jumped on the Orange, taking advantage of SU's inexperienced centers and inability to make a shot and ran out to a 19-0 lead. However, when presented with a chance to fold, the Orange fought back and made a 17-0 run of their own and we had a game.
From that point forward the Orange battled mightily, but in the end were unable to get enough stops defensively and had too many empty trips on the offensive end to overcome a very, very good Pitt team on the road. The fact that Syracuse played the game without its leading scorer and best player Kris Joseph didn't help matters either. That being said, Syracuse spotted Pitt nearly 20 points and still had a chance to win the game.
Here are a few quick observations:
1.) It goes without saying that both of SU's freshman centers got a brief, rude awakening to Big East play tonight. Fab Melo and Baye Keita were revolving doors in the middle of the zone. After Pitt ran out to the 19-0 lead, only Keita saw the floor again, and that was for about 10 seconds in the second half. With both guys overmatched, Boeheim essentially went with 6 guys all game.
2.) SU was much better with Rick Jackson in the middle and James Southerland and CJ Fair on the wings. However, with a couple of smaller, skinny guys on the back line, the Panthers beat the Orange up on the boards. Jackson was once again very good. I thought SU should have continued to feed him more in the second half, but SU settled for some quick jumpers instead.
3.) I tweeted during the game that watching Scoop Jardine tonight was like watching a car careening down an ice covered hill. He was exciting, all over the place, out of control at times, and someone you couldn't take your eyes off. The Orange don't get back in the game without Scoop, but there were more than a few decisions he needed a do over on.
4) CJ Fair played brilliantly at times and was key player in the comeback. You have to be excited about his performance tonight. He's got one glaring hole in his game right now - he's got no mid-range jumper. Once that develops - most likely next year -- watch out. Tonight Pitt was giving him the 15 footer because it wasn't going in.
5.) You aren't going to beat the number 4 team in the country, on their home floor, without your leading scorer if you miss lay ups and free throws. Syracuse did both. Repeatedly. Brandon Triche, Scoop, and Southerland all missed bunnies - and Dion Waiters had a dunk rejected emphatically. SU needed more conversions.
6.) The difference between this Pitt team and Pitt teams of the past is that this one can really shoot the ball. Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown -- all those guys can make threes, which is key because they also move the ball better than almost every team in the country. I was really impressed with the way Pitt attacked the 2-3 zone tonight. Even though he can't keep his ass in the coaching box, Jamie Dixon has these guys playing very well right now.
7.) Gary McGhee has no discernible basketball talent. He's a defensive end playing basketball and his sole purpose is to take up space and wrestle the opposing team's big men all night. I'm not fond of him. And he looks like cross between Britney Griner and a body double from the movie predator. Someone make him go away.
8.) I love, love, love James Southerland and I'd like to see him a little more aggressive offensively, but a bigger area of concern is this -- how did he manage to play 38 minutes and grab ONE REBOUND. That's uh, not good.
9) While officially SU officials have given no update (last item) on Kris Joseph or said the exact nature of his injury, he did tell Hakim Warrick via twitter that he suffered a concussion. Make of that what you will.
The bottom line is that this team wasn't going to go undefeated and 18-1 is a damn fine record. CJ Fair, Southerland, and Dion Waiters all got some great game experience in one of the toughest venues in the country. It was a loss, but a loss that will build character and pay off down the road and SU will need that character in hurry - Villanova comes to the Dome Saturday.