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Saturday, Jan 27, 2018 at 11:24 pm

Sidibe Guides Men’s Basketball to Ugly Win Over Pitt

By Chris Thomsen

Things usually get ugly between Syracuse (15-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Pittsburgh (8-14, 0-9 ACC). But it’s not usually shooting percentages that causes it.

Both ACC teams struggled to score in the first half of Syracuse’s eventual 60-55 win on Saturday at the Peterson Event Center in Pittsburgh. Only three of Pitt’s players made a field goal. Meanwhile, the Orange scored only 13 points on field goals in the first half, shooting 22.2 percent on 6-27 shooting.

Syracuse kept trying to force itself in the paint but faced incredible resistance from the Pitt defense, mainly due to role player Terrell Brown.

Oshae Brissett was rendered ineffective down low, shooting 4-for-16 throughout the game. Marek Dolezaj struggled early in his first start for Syracuse; his first field goal came with 30 seconds left in the first half. Tyus Battle struggled getting open looks, while Frank Howard didn’t convert a field goal until the second half.

“Tonight, we obviously couldn’t make anything happen for a long time,” Jim Boeheim said.

So it came down to Bourama Sidibe.

Sidibe faced his first real action since playing 17 minutes against Kansas on December 5 due to nagging knee tendinitis, and was instrumental in holding down the defensive fort in the first half, securing eight rebounds in 12 minutes. But his offense was crucial to the Orange’s success in the second half. The freshman finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, both career and game highs, in Syracuse’s 60-55 victory over the Panthers.

After Paschal Chukwu failed to secure a defensive rebound in the opening minutes of the second half, Boeheim quickly turned around and pointed at Sidibe to check in. The freshman took over immediately, earning a double-double in the second half alone with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Bourama was tremendous,” Boeheim said. “He had his best practice of the year. I didn’t anticipate him playing that much, but Pacshal wasn’t involved in the game at all.”

Sidibe continually beat Brown’s defense near the basket, attempting multiple fakes before he attempted his shot.

As the rock of the 2-3 zone, Sidibe was constantly affecting Pitt’s rebounding and shot selection. The Panthers were forced to take outside shots, which didn’t’ fall. The Orange held Pitt to its lowest field goal percentage of the season as the Panthers shot 18-65 from the field, converting on 27.7 percent of their looks.

Sidibe’s impact performance could not have come at a better time as the Orange is missing starting forward Matthew Moyer to an ankle injury. Boeheim said Moyer won’t be playing on Wednesday at Georgia Tech and could miss even more time.

An injury prevented Sidibe from succeeding early on in the Orange’s campaign. Now, another one is giving him a chance to redeem his season.

“I am feeling confident enough,” Sidibe said. “Boeheim said I just got to go play and forget about it, that I’m hurt…I just wanted to show him that I could move, that I could play through it.”