Battle, Boeheim’s Career Night Power Syracuse Past Pitt
By AJ Fabbri
CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter
Coming off one of the most impressive wins in all of college basketball this past Monday, it would have been easy to expect a letdown from Syracuse as they hosted unranked Pitt.
But no such letdown came, as the Orange (13-5, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) overpowered the Panthers (12-6, 2-3) 74-63 in front of 24,466 fans in the Carrier Dome.
“We’re never worried about what’s happened in the past here, or what’s next,” said head coach Jim Boeheim. “We worry about the game we have to play.”
Both teams traded blows throughout the first few minutes. Frank Howard drilled one of his two three pointers of the day to cap off an 8-0 run that gave SU a 15-11 advantage with 12 minutes left in the first half. Oshae Brissett paced the Orange with seven points.
After scoring a season-high 32 points at Duke, Tyus Battle was quiet in the early going. Pitt junior Malik Ellison face guarded Battle, taking away any easy looks. Battle seem frustrated with both his lack of production, as well as an unfavorable whistle.
“I knew I was gonna get a shot to fall. I thought I was getting good looks. It just wasn’t happening for me at the moment,” Battle said.
The junior guard was 0-5 from the field to start, but flipped a switch after the under eight minute media timeout. Battle nailed a corner three and mid range jumper on back to back possessions to spark his scoring. The 5 point personal run forced Pitt head coach to call timeout, as the Orange took an 11 point lead with four minutes left in the half.
“I was just continuing to be aggressive. I knew it was gonna start going well at some point,” Battle added.
The first half lead swelled to as much as 12, but a sloppy final two minutes spoiled a first half in which the Orange mostly dominated.
SU committed four turnovers in its final five possessions. The Panthers took advantage, as Pitt’s Xavier Johnson and Jared Wilson-Frame connected on consecutive deep balls, part of a 9-0 run, making it 28-25 SU at the half.
Syracuse wiped away the stench of the first half’s close with an outstanding 10 minute stretch to open up the second half.
Elijah Hughes ended a five minute scoring drought with his second three pointer at the 16 minute mark of the second half. From there, the Orange took off.
A 12-0 SU run was highlighted by a Paschal Chukwu dunk that brought the largest college basketball crowd of the year to its feet.
Wilson-Frame nailed a three to make it 40-30 SU with 12 minutes left. On the ensuing possession, the Orange took advantage of the over-aggressive Panther defense.
Marek Dolezaj caught the ball at the left of of the free throw line. He pivoted, and found Hughes breaking open from the left wing on a backdoor cut. Hughes caught the ball in stride and slammed home a tomahawk dunk, pushing the lead back to 12.
“Marek made those great pressure passes on the back doors to give us a lead. There was nothing easy out there,” Boeheim said.
Dolezaj finished with a season-high five assists.
After the dunk electrified the crowd, Battle followed suit with a transition three to push the lead to 15. The three was a part of eight straight points from Battle, who picked off a Trey McGowens lazy pass and jammed home a fast break dunk to make it 50-31 Orange.
In the first ten minutes of the second half, SU outscored Pitt 22-6, holding the Panthers to a meager 3 of 16 shooting in that span.
The big run allowed SU to coast to the finish line. Buddy Boeheim was 4-5 from behind the arc, posting a career high 13 points in the process.
“I know my shot’s gonna come. Just getting used to the speed I need to play at this level is something I’ve been focused on,” the younger Boeheim said. “It definitely feels good. My teammates are giving me open looks and giving me the confidence I need to knock them down.”
Battle finished with a game high 22 points on 9-17 shooting. Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard also cracked double digit scoring, with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Orange racked up 12 three balls, tying their season high. The 46.3% field goal percentage is the highest SU has shot against an ACC opponent this season.
With the win, SU is now apart of a six team log jam at the top of the ACC, tied with Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Duke. SU will remain in the Dome next as they host Miami (9-8, 1-4) this Thursday at 8 pm.
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