Syracuse needs to play good defense to beat Pitt Saturday.
It is no secret that Pittsburgh has been Syracuse’s biggest Achilles heel since the Orange joined the ACC. Most notably, the Panthers knocked off the Orange three times last season, the last of which, at the time, seemed to be the end of the road for Syracuse. However, Boeheim’s squad found a way to beat the Panthers earlier this season, and beat them comfortably, 77-66 on January 7th at the Carrier Dome. If you want a full preview of the matchup, the Fizz has you covered there.
The question being addressed here, is what went right last time and what can the Orange do to get a similar result on Saturday in a huge ACC game? Well, the obvious answer to what went right last time is that the Orange shot the ball well, particularly in the first half. The Orange shot 59.2% from the field and 50% from three (8-16) in the first 20 minutes on January 7th. Obviously, shooting at such a high percentage on Saturday will go a long way to helping the Orange win.
However, what Syracuse was really able to do, and what they might find harder to do on the road at the Oakland Zoo, is that they shut down Pitt’s big guns for long stretches and, over the course of the entire game, contained the Panthers’ big threats. Michael Young, who leads the ACC with nearly 21 points per game, was held to just 17. At the time, he was averaging around 23 points per game. Sheldon Jeter, who, Syracuse fans hardly need reminding, picked apart the Orange 2-3 zone in 2015-16 was held to just 12.
The Orange have found a way to win on the road the last two times out, after failing to win in their first six trips away from the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. However, the Orange haven’t exactly been playing stellar defense in the last two wins. Syracuse gave up 87 points in regulation to N.C. State and 81 points to Clemson. Hardly Jim Boeheim, 2-3 zone numbers. The Oakland Zoo is a brutally hostile place to play, however much the Panthers have been struggling this season. Pitt has in fact been playing better basketball of late. They are coming off of a win on the road against Boston College (something that the Orange couldn’t do) and they lost to Duke and UNC on the road by only a combined 10 points. Syracuse was able to get on a huge run the last time that they faced Pitt because of strong defense as much as strong shooting. Look for more of the same on Saturday.