Syracuse led Pittsburgh by 18 points with 4:02 in the first half. The Panther’s offense was so anemic, it seemed even cold shooting by the Orange wouldn’t get in the way of a comfortable victory. But the Pitt stepped up its game in the second half, crashing the offensive glass to great effect and capitalizing on open looks from deep. The Orange, now 6-2, had previously survived shaky performances against Bryant, Northeastern and Buffalo, but this time SU paid the price with a loss against an inferior opponent. The Panthers never led by more than three, and won by three, 63-60.
After blowing the double digit advantage, Syracuse had a chance to steal another game in crunch time. Syracuse had possession up one point with under a minute remaining. Alan Griffin took a difficult isolation three to no avail. It was nothing more than a force. On the next possession, Joe Girard let his man blow by, opening up a kick-out opportunity. Ithiel Horton missed the trey, but it was tipped in for a Pitt lead.
Kadary Richmond, Syracuse’s best defensive player at the top of the zone, was not in the game. He might’ve had a better chance to keep the dribble drive in check, and could have rotated earlier than Buddy Boeheim did to prevent the three. With Syracuse down one, Alan Griffin took the ball up the floor with a sparkle in his eye. He took his time crossing the midcourt line, and then Boeheim called his final timeout with 5.2 seconds remaining. Had Griffin hustled up the floor, Syracuse would have had more time to work with on the in-bounds. It turned out the timeout wasn’t a good idea anyway.
Marek Dolzaj inbounded on the across from the Syracuse bench.
“A couple people got confused, Dolezaj said, “I was waiting to see if they go in the right spot and they didn’t. I kind of panicked and then I threw the ball somewhere.”
It was a turnover. Pittsburgh converted on its free throw attempts for a three point cushion. Alan Griffin was tantalizingly close on a halfcourt heave for overtime, but it clanked off the rim. There was no one major error in that final sequence, but a plethora of small ones. Griffin’s isolation force, Richmond’s benching, timeout confusion and in-bounds butchery. Syracuse bungled the final minute of this game.
There were a few reasons the game was close in the first place. The Orange had another ice cold performance from beyond the arc, going 12/38 (32%). Guerrier, who had been SU’s early season MVP and was yet to finish in single-digit scoring, got into major foul trouble, and scored three points in 17 minutes. Without Guerrier, Dolezaj struggled to fend off the Panthers attack on the offensive glass. Pittsburgh scored 21 second chance points, to Syracuse’s three. Unfortunately, there was no return of Bourama Sidibe, as it appeared there could be: