On the heels of taking down top-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Syracuse returned home to the Carrier Dome and defeated Pittsburgh, 74-63.
Syracuse (13-5, 4-1) came into the game with all the confidence in the world and it showed, as the defense held Pittsburgh (12-6, 2-3) to just 63 points in the second straight win for the Orange. Meanwhile, the Panthers were coming off an impressive victory themselves, defeating No. 11 Florida State 75-62 on Monday.
This marks Syracuse's third straight victory against Pittsburgh as the Orange maintain their 3rd place standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The 11-point difference in the scoreline does not give Syracuse's performance justice, however.
The offense followed up their 95-point outburst with another strong showing. Sophomore forward Oshae Brissett (11 points, 5 rebounds) paced the Orange early on, scoring 7 of Syracuse's first 18 points. His first points didn't come until the five-minute mark in the first half, but Tyus Battle still shouldered the load with a game-high 22 points.
After drilling a pull-up triple to put Syracuse ahead 24-15, Battle (9-17, 22 points) scored the next seven points featuring his patented, and typically contested, pull-up jumper from midrange. Syracuse held a 28-16 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half, but the Panthers stormed back with nine straight points and entered the locker room trailing 28-25.
Whether it was Dino Babers' "Our House" chants during halftime or Jim Boeheim's halftime speech, Syracuse burst out of the gates in the second half. Sparked by three-pointers from Elijah Hughes (3-7, 8 points) and Frank Howard (10 points, 5 assists), the Orange went on a 12-2 run to open the half, holding Pitt to just 2 points in over 8 minutes.
While Marek Dolezaj didn't impact the game with his scoring, he did in basically every other way. His 6 rebounds were good for second behind Paschal Chukwu's 11, and he added 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Dolezaj showed tremendous vision on multiple occasions in the second half, including two backdoor dimes to Battle and Hughes that led to easy buckets. He has proven to be a servicable option in the middle of the 2-3 zone and can provide a change of pace from Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe.
Other than the big three of Battle, Brissett, and Howard, one other Syracuse player scored in double digits. And it wasn't Elijah Hughes, or Paschal Chukwu. Buddy Boeheim came off the bench and poured in 13 points, a career-high. He hit four of five from deep and his 13 was behind only Battle's 22 for the Orange. If Boeheim can continue to hit consistently from behind the arc, his shooting will be a valuable asset on Syracuse's bench as conference play intensifies.
Aside from the smothering defensive performance and balanced scoring output from the Orange, they once again struggled at the free throw line. As a team, Syracuse only hit 12 of 23 from the charity stripe, and this has emerged as an ongoing issue for an Orange team that needs all the points they can get.
Syracuse will look to build on an impressive start to conference play when they welcome the Miami Hurricanes to the Carrier Dome on Thursday at 8:00 pm. It does not get any easier for Pittsburgh, as they will host the Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday.