Syracuse, NY – We had news before the balloon launched on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s been that kind of season in college basketball. It’s been that kind of year in general.
Neither team had played for some time because of the positive Covid tests in their own schedule or the positive tests in the opposing team’s schedules.
Either way, Syracuse galloped to take an 11-0 lead, then sort of took a 32-18 advantage at halftime. It wouldn’t last. A tip-in from Au’Diese Toney, combined with SU’s inability to enter the ball with 5.2 seconds left, sealed it for the Panthers. Final score: Pittsburgh 63, Syracuse 60.
The Panthers beat the Orange 45-28 in the second half. Syracuse led once by 18 in the first half.
Here is what happened:
Neither Bourama Sidibe nor Frank Anselem were dressed in SU uniforms or available for Wednesday’s game. Sidibe, who returned to training after surgery to repair his meniscus in early December, felt pain in his repaired knee after training on Tuesday and was scratched Wednesday against the Panthers.
Anselem, said Basketball League spokesman Pete Moore, had still not been medically released from the recent Covid quarantine of the Orange men and has yet to practice with the team. Anselem is out of quarantine, as evidenced by the fact that he was in the gym, wearing warm-ups and interacting with his teammates.
Sidibe, whom his teammates consider as their leader, had a good place on the orange “bench” (the players are shifted in a corner). He spent part of the match standing and yelling instructions to his teammates.
Syracuse came out of the door on the figurative fire. Orange led 11-0 after scoring 3 points by Alan Griffin (2) and Buddy Boeheim. Then Boeheim fed Griffin on an extended quick break. SU shot 7 of 19 from the 3 point line in the first half. The Orange, as a team, had been streaked from afar all season. I asked Joe Girard how well the team were able to shoot the ball during the Covid break and he said players can use shooting rifles at the Melo Center to work on their jumpers.
Then SU calmed down considerably and struggled to score to close the half. These problems continued.
The Orange, perhaps overflowing with confidence in the first half of the 3-point line, continued to take them in the second half. The problem was that this time very few of those shots had landed. Syracuse, as a team, converted just 10 field goals in the second half.
SU went 4 of 19 from the 3 point line after intermission. Buddy Boeheim is still trying to find his shot. He was 2 in 10 to 3 against the Panthers.
Pittsburgh looked lost at the forefront of this game. Playing without his best player (Justin Champagnie) and three other guys who were observing Covid contact tracing protocols, the Panthers struggled to make any shots. Pittsburgh scored 18 at the half. The Panthers were 6 of 28 overall and 1 of 12 on the 3-point line at the break.
It didn’t help that versatile guard Xavier Johnson, a veteran of Pitt, was limited to five minutes of the first half due to foul issues.
He was back to start the second half and the Panthers took advantage of his score, speed, rebound jerk and general bluster.
Robert Braswell was the first SU striker off the bench, which sparked a whole series of speculation on social media. Where was Woody Newton? People wanted to know.
Newton had played well in his limited minutes this season. He was at Wednesday’s game. He was wearing his Syracuse uniform. He warmed up. He did not play in the first half.
He came into action early in the second half. He didn’t play much.
And Braswell was good. At one point in the second half, as SU clung to a four-point lead, he drained three straight 3-pointers. All were assisted by Alan Griffin. And the Orange suddenly led 44-33. Braswell finished with 12 points.
Quincy Warrior had been to Syracuse most reliable player this season. But the orange forward was mired in trouble for most of Wednesday’s game and wasn’t a big factor. He lasted 30 seconds of the second half before landing his fourth foul.
This was problematic for a whole host of reasons, the main one why SU was already playing small without Sidibe and Guerrier is clearly SU’s best rebounder.
Pittsburgh won the council battle on Wednesday. He decisively crushed the orange on the glass. This rebounding disparity took a toll on SU, especially in times of decline, when Au’Diese Toney flipped into a chess to give Pitt a lead with 5.2 seconds left.
Final rebound tally: Pittsburgh 49, Syracuse 33. Toney, who is 6-foot-6, caught 14 boards.
This and that: Pittsburgh was without Noah Collier, Nike Sibande, and John Hugley due to Covid-19 contact tracing issues. The Panthers’ best player, Justin Champagnie, was unable to play due to a knee injury. Champagnie made the trip to Syracuse. … Syracuse paid tribute to the great footballer Floyd Little before the game. Little died earlier this month from cancer. He had been in palliative care. … Marek Dolezaj was oddly not involved in the game after an attacking push in the first half. Pitt went small to start the game, but then inserted 6-foot-10 Terrell Brown, who was harder to score and really made a difference for Pittsburgh, who went to him late in the game down the lane. . Dolezaj finished with nine points in 40 minutes. He took five hits. … Syracuse has a stationary bike located near its “bench”. Kadary Richmond is a frequent user of this bike (obviously when he’s not in the game because that would be weird.) … Pittsburgh was 1 of 12 of 3 in the first half. The Panthers were much better there in the second half, going 6 of 16. Johnson’s massive Wing 3 with 1:49 to go tied the game at 57. … Paint points and that. was pretty huge: SU was outscored 28-12 in the paint.
More basketball from Syracuse:
You notice the Orange after a loss to Pittsburgh
Syracuse-Pittsburgh boxed score
Syracuse goalkeeper Joe Girard Q&A: What has happened since the Covid break?
ACC Power Rankings: Where does Syracuse stand when it comes back to practice?