In the first half Syracuse was clearly the superior team, but a combination of the refs and sloppy turnovers led to frustration going into the locker room. At halftime, it was just a three-point lead for the Orange after Pitt went on a 9-0 run before halftime. But in the second half SU went on a tear, going on a 22-4 run.
Of course, Tyus Battle was the leader today as he went off for 22 points. It was a frustrating game for Battle as he was getting knocked around without getting the calls. Regardless, he was putting guys on skates and driving to the rim. That‚Äôs something he and the rest of the team need to continue to do. When they get themselves going by driving the lane, easier three-point shots open up. That’s what happened today as SU’s hot streak from deep continued.
Battle got some help from Paschal Chukwu who had his second straight double-digit rebounding game, when he finished with 11 boards. He also chipped in on offense on a couple of slams and a put back. He‚Äôs been much more active in the last couple of games after being benched just 10 days ago. Chukwu had a big height advantage on the glass, so this was a game where he needed to show out. He did just that, showing that the Duke game wasn’t a fluke.
Buddy may be the three-point threat the Orange have been looking for. He had a career day with 13 points, but more importantly, he was efficient. He hit 80 percent of his threes today and gave the team a spark when needed. He seems to have taken the spot of Jalen Carey, who didn‚Äôt play today. While Carey is electric with the ball in his hands, he has a similar playing style to SU’s other scorers. Boeheim piles on points in a different kind of way and with limited minutes available behind Battle and Frank Howard, he’s making it tough to take him out of the lineup.
Overall, it was a good game for the Orange. This had the makings of a trap game after the big win over Duke on Monday, but SU handled its business. However, free throws were a big problem. Syracuse hit just 12-23, but did hit the freebies towards the end of the game. At one point the team had hit just 5-15 free throws. In closer games, that could be the difference between a win and a loss. One thing to keep an eye on was Battle’s struggles from the line. He went just 1-4 and his free throw percentage is down almost 5 percentage points what it was last year.
For the second straight game SU was great from deep. It went 12-26, with Boeheim leading the way. If he stays in the lineup, expect the three-point percentage to continue to improve. Besides his efforts, Syracuse is moving better on offense. Instead of passing back-and-forth along the three-point line and waiting for someone to make a play, SU set screens and found open shots. The team is gelling and is gaining momentum.