Pittsburgh 74 – Syracuse 66
What a past couple of days it’s been on the Pittsburgh sports scene and Pittsburgh was in the spot light once again tonight as No.4 Pittsburgh defeated No. 3 Syracuse 74-66 on Monday night at the Petersen event center.
In a pivotal Big East matchup, a remarkable scene of basketball was on display in the 1st half as the Panthers jumped out to a 19-0 lead to open the game, countering the Orange 2-3 zone scheme with dominating interior play.
Nasir Robinson fueled the Panthers early surge with nine consecutive points and finished with a game high 21 pts.
“We practiced all week with me attacking the middle of their (2-3) zone and then passing to Brad or Ashton (Gibbs),” Robinson said. “Getting inside opens up a lot against that zone.”
The Orange didn’t score their first point until 8 minutes into the half but as Pitt led 19-0, Syracuse went on a 17-0 lead to cut the Panthers lead to 19-17.
Pittsburgh lost its big early lead, then came back behind Nasir Robinson’s 21 points and dominating play on boards (41-27 Pitt advantage) to hand the Orange their first loss. Robinson added 7 rebounds and 2 assists in the win.
Pitt earned it’s eighth victory in nine games against Syracuse, which played without leading scorer Kris Joseph after he received a concussion Saturday against Cincinnati.
Brad Wanamaker added 15 points to help the No. 4 Panthers (18-1) improve to 6-0 in the Big East for the first time and halt a long Syracuse winning streak for the second successive season.
The Orange (18-1, 5-1) couldn’t match the 1999-2000 team’s school record by winning their first 19 games. Syracuse won its first 13 last season, only to lose to Pitt 82-72 at the Carrier Dome.
For the Orange, C.J. Fair had 16 points and nine rebounds while Scoop Jardine added 12 points for Syracuse, which answered Pitt’s big start with a 17-0 run that helped tie the score at 41 with 13:46 remaining. The Panthers though scored 9 of the next 12 points as Wanamaker hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to help Pitt pull away.
Gary McGhee had a strong game inside, leading the Panthers with 13 rebounds.
For fallen so far behind to start the game, the Orange played a gritty game without their best player against a Pitt team that has the look of the most complete and dangerous team during the Jamie Dixon era.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim hinted in his post-game comments that this might be the best Pitt team he’s ever seen.
“We got off to a horrible start and Pitt got off to a great start,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We had a long way to come from back from the beginning. … That’s as good a Pitt team as I’ve seen. That’s probably the best team we’ve played.”
Pitt is 9-0 in the Petersen Events Center against Top 5 clubs, including a 78-63 victory over then-No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27.
Among those in the arena record crowd of 12,925 were a half-dozen Steelers players, including Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, Larry Foote, Max Starks, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley. Former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald was also in attendance.
Even former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed was in attendance.
Pitt football head coach Todd Graham also had several top recruits in attendance.