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'Cuse Ready to Pounce on Slumping Panthers

Saturday's contest between Syracuse (15-6, 6-2) and Pittsburgh (12-9, 2-6) has the potential to be a cake walk for the visiting Orange.  Jim Boeheim's squad beat the Panthers 74-63 less than two weeks ago and two of Pitt's key pieces missed practice Thursday. Despite that, just as you can't count 'Cuse out of any games this year, you also can't pencil any wins in on the schedule until they happen. 

The Panthers have dropped four straight games. After losing to Syracuse, Pittsburgh lost to Duke, then to 15th ranked Louisville and most recently to Clemson. All of those games except the Duke game were road games for the Panthers, who have yet to win a road game this year (0-6). The Panthers have played much better at the Petersen Events Center, holding a 10-3 record at home.

In his first year as Pittsburgh head coach, Jeff Capel III already has a couple of upset wins under his belt. Before losing to Louisville on January 26th, the Panthers beat the Cardinals 89-86 on January 9th. Pitt also beat the current #25 team in the country, Florida State on January 14th. That was a different team than the one that took the court against Clemson on Tuesday.

The Panthers played without their leading offensive rebounder Au'Diese Toney against Clemson. The freshman guard sat with a right hand injury and did not practice on Thursday. Sophomore forward Terrell Brown also sat out of Thursday's practice as he battled strep throat.  Brown has 46 blocks so far this season, leading his team by more than 30 rejections. Both Toney and Brown are questionable for Saturday's game against Syracuse. The team's leading scorer Xavier Johnson (16.9 ppg) is coming off of a 30-point performance in the loss to Clemson.

The Orange are coming off of a 77-71 win over the Boston College Eagles. Head coach Jim Boeheim generally likes to keep scoring low, and for good reason. Syracuse is just 3-5 in games this year where the opponent scores more than 70 points. At the same time, Pittsburgh averages 74.1 points per game.

Thinking about listening to SU vs. Pitt at 6 pm tomorrow on WAER 88.3 FM? Tune in a little early to catch Countdown to Tip-off at 5:30!

'Cuse needed 31 points from leading scorer Tyus Battle (18 ppg) to beat Boston College Wednesday. The team's second leading scorer against the Eagles was Buddy Boeheim with 13 points. The freshman set a season-high with 13 points in SU's first game against Pitt this season. After a slow start to the season, the pure-shooting guard shot 15-29 from downtown in the month of January.

Syracuse has won three straight games against Pittsburgh. The Orange leads the all-time series 69-45 and has won three straight games. When former Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon left the school to go to TCU in 2016, the Panthers had won five straight games against the Orange. Since then, Pitt is 1-4 against SU. Kevin Stallings was the Panthers head coach directly after Jamie Dixon, going 1-3 against Syracuse before Jeff Capel III took over. 

With #23 North Carolina State and #25 Florida State both in action tomorrow, a win gives Syracuse a chance at making it back into the top-25, or at least creating some space in the ACC. The unranked Orange has more conference wins than both North Carolina and Syracuse. You can listen to Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh on WAER 88.3 FM at 6pm tomorrow.