Syracuse Rebounds in Second Half to Top Pitt in ACC Tournament
By Adam Unger
CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Early in the last game of the second round of the ACC Tournament, it looked like it was going to be the Jared Wilson-Frame show.
“Frame has always hurt us,” head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I congratulated him and said ‘I’m glad you’re a senior, I’ve seen enough of you here.”
Pitt’s senior guard scored 24 points against the Orange, all of which came from behind the arc. But a strong second half led Syracuse (20-12, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) to a 73-59 win over Pittsburgh (14-19, 3-15).
Wilson-Frame scored six of Pitt’s first ten points—and both of his first two threes were shot off-balance. Senior guard Frank Howard knocked down two triples for SU to keep the Orange in the game early.
“I knew I had to be a little more aggressive,” Howard said. “That pace, and that type of aggression, I need to bring it every night.”
Syracuse felt Tyus Battle’s absence due to a back/hip injury. After a brief 8-7 lead with 16:28 to go, the Orange trailed for the remainder of the first half. As a team, SU shot just 34.5% from the field before going into the locker room.
Meanwhile, Wilson-Frame kept on knocking shots down from long range. His first miss came with 6:53 to go in the first half. He had already knocked down four.
On the back of Wilson-Frame’s 18 points at halftime, Pitt led 36-30 going into the locker room.
“The last four games we had the lead at halftime, I tried to start coaching at halftime. So tonight, I decided not to coach at all. So they went out and made the adjustments,” Jim Boeheim said. “We knew all along we had to guard Frame, and we didn’t, and then we did.”
Syracuse picked up a hot hand to start the second half. In the first three minutes of the first half, freshman Buddy Boeheim and junior Elijah Hughes scored five points apiece. The Orange faithful in the Spectrum Center roared as Syracuse took a 40-39 lead.
Once Boeheim tacked on one more three, Pitt was forced to call a timeout. Boeheim, who is normally inanimate and composed on the court, was flexing and celebrating with his teammates on the way to convene with his father.
“It was just a great moment hearing all the fans in there and the support we got,” Buddy Boeheim said. “Showing emotion is part of having fun out there.”
Hughes and Boeheim continued to build Syracuse’s second-half lead to double digits. Frank Howard got back in on the action, as well. The game shifted from the Wilson-Frame show to a Syracuse Big Three show.
As Pitt’s senior leader cooled down from long range, his teammates couldn’t get anything going inside, either. Senior center Paschal Chukwu loaded up the stat sheet with nine rebounds and six blocks against a small Pitt lineup.
“They’re tough to score on at the rim,” Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel said. “Especially if you don’t have guys that can play above the rim and have confrontations at the rim with them.”
Chukwu fouled out with 1:30 to go in the game, but the Orange led 67-55 at that point. Fouls and free throws brought the Orange and the Panthers to the 73-59 final.
On Thursday, the Orange will go toe-to-toe with Duke for the third time this season. They split their regular season series with each team winning on the road.
“It’s one of those tough games that you look forward to,” Howard said. “We definitely want to get one back.”
While Tyus Battle will still be day-to-day with his back/hip injury, freshman phenom Zion Williamson (knee) has been cleared to play against the Orange. Tip-off is at 9:30 pm.