Orange Nation finally gets what it was hoping for: a rematch with Georgetown, a “revenge” game as Brandon Triche called it. Syracuse held off Pittsburgh in the waning minutes of Thursday’s quarter-final matchup and defeated the Panthers 62-59 inside Madison Square Garden.
The Fizz Five takeaways from Syracuse’s victory.
- Mission: Accomplished: Get Better
Jim Boeheim admitted post game that the mindset heading into New York this week was not to raise a trophy on Saturday. It was much simpler. After losing 4 of its previous 5 heading into The Tournament, the message was simply: get better. CJ Fair told The Fizz the team has made huge strides in just two days.
“We jumped a lot [the last two games]. They got us ranked as the 17th team right now, but the way we’re playing the last few games, we’re a top 10 team. Our offense is much crisper, we’re just playing more patient, and now we’re trusting one another to knock down open shots and make the extra passes.”
It benefits the confidence more than anything. Syracuse won a close game, a close game down the stretch. After knocking off Cincinnati and Louisville in the last few minutes of back-to-back games in January, the Orange lost six straight that were within reach down the stretch. The leaders of this team are playing well. Triche, James Southerland, Fair and Michael Carter-Williams accounted for 56 of SU’s 62 points. on Wednesday, the trio of Triche, Fair, and Southerland scored 53 combined. Reliability. It’s crucial come Tournament time.
- Southerland’s Threes Have Been Daggers
He’s been absolutely lights out. SU would already be home if James did not go 12-15 in the first two. The Long Island native tallied 6 triples in both contests against Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, and is now 4 three-pointers shy of the Big East Tournament record. Coincidentally, Gerry McNamara holds the record with 16 trifectas in Syracuse’s memorable 2006 run. What’s a little concerning is that the Panthers locked down on the sharp shooter in the second half and limited his attempts. Double teams were a problem for James, but he shouldn’t have to worry on Friday against the Hoyas. He’ll be launching the triples against the zone.
- SU Found a Scorer
It might not have been who we expected, but Carter-Williams stepped up when necessary. He admitted to The Fizz after the win Boeheim was on him more than ever during the final few minutes, but the PG wanted the ball in his hands. Syracuse left the door open in the second half and let the Panthers back in it. Southerland and Triche weren’t scoring, but MCW provided the spark. The sophomore tallied 7 points and two steals in the final minutes, and also scored 10 of the final 15 SU points. Carter-Williams and the Orange shut that door when they had to.
- Start It Up: At The Half
The beginning to each half told the story for the Orange. The offensive controlled the pace for much of the first, and SU went up by as many as 13. This is the type of start SU will need against the Hoyas. A faster start in the second half is necessary. Syracuse scored just 4 points in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd. Defensively, Pittsburgh tightened up, and it affected the Syracuse gameplan. Because of it, Pitt almost stole the win.
- Syracuse Had a Screen and Roll Game?
This was one of the most interesting aspects of the afternoon. Pittsburgh played predominantly man throughout the entire game. In the first half, Syracuse tried to take advantage of it. Pittsburgh’s big men – mainly 7-footer Steven Adams – forgot about the screeners, and left wide open opportunities for Carter Williams. Unfortunately, MCW couldn’t hit the cutters. He actually had 2 turnovers trying to hit Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas slicing down the lane. But this was an encouraging sign. Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara remarked the options were open because of increased offensive fluidity.
“We created it off movement. It was off of down screens or off of continuous motion. Coach has done a great job over the last week putting some of these sets in. It’s helped us. That’s going to be the key moving forward, how are we going to use each other to make each other better.”
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald