The last time Syracuse faced Pittsburgh was just 10 days ago, when the Panthers rallied from an 18 point deficit to defeat the Orange 63-60 in the Dome. Alan Griffin and Robert Braswell were the only SU players to finish in double-digits as Pitt’s defense held Jim Boeheim’s squad to its lowest scoring total this season.
So on Saturday, how can Syracuse win the second go-round with Bourama Sidibe still sidelined?
Syracuse would have a much better chance if it was able to rebound productively, rather than being outrebounded by 16 as it was in the first game against Pitt. But without Sidibe, and Frank Anselem still sidelined, SU doesn’t have great options on its bench in Jesse Edwards and John Bol Ajak.
“We don’t have a plan,” Boeheim said of his depth behind Marek Dolezaj. “We don’t have anybody that can play that position. … We’re still working with Jesse every day. We’re hoping that he can give us some minutes in there, but he’s really the only alternative right now.”
Clearly Boeheim doesn’t have much faith in his team’s chances to out-rebound the Panthers. Instead, Syracuse must prevent Pitt from shooting 3’s, and get Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard good looks early in the game.
Pittsburgh isn’t a great three-point shooting team, but has three players shooting over 33%. Au’Diese Toney is its best shooter, knocking down 40% of his looks from outside. If it can hit around a third of its threes, that’s generally enough for Jeff Capel’s squad to win with its defense, which is the 34th best adjusted defense, according to Kenpom.
For comparison, in Pitt’s win over SU, it nailed just 25% of its three-point attempts. But besides a near necessity for suffocating three-point defense, Syracuse must heat Buddy Boeheim and Girard up early.
On Jan. 6, Girard and Boeheim combined for just 16 points on 6-23 shooting. Pitt’s perimeter defense is very good, but SU has enough offensive threats to find open looks for its guards.
The Orange are better than the Panthers and let a win slip away on Jan. 6. By focusing on the perimeter on Saturday, Syracuse could win easily.