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Panther Pain: Syracuse’s Comeback Effort Falls Short Against Pitt, 84-82

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With the holiday break on the horizon, Syracuse men’s basketball was dispatched from the warmth of the JMA Wireless Dome and into the cold in inauspicious, not-so-merry fashion.

In its 84-82 victory, Pittsburgh (9-4, 2-0 ACC) handled SU (8-5, 1-1 ACC) with more ease than the final score would indicate. The Panthers started strong, dominated the start of the second half, and handed the Orange a hefty lump of coal in the form of ‘Cuse’s first conference loss of the year.

Once again, Syracuse started slowly in front of its home crowd. The Orange lobbed up 12 three-pointers in the game’s first 20 minutes and saw only one fall, courtesy of guard Judah Mintz. In the meantime, fellow backcourt teammate Joe Girard finished the half 0-of-3 from the field with a trio of turnovers. Starting forwards Chris Bell (4 points, 13 minutes) and Benny Williams (1-of-5 shooting, 13 minutes) both provided limited offense, and SU limped through its first 20 minutes. At the break, Pitt led 41-33, helped along by a three-point barrage by old foe Nelly Cummings. The former Colgate sharpshooter put up 18 points on the Orange last year as a Raider and finished 6-of-11 from deep on a 22-point evening.

In the second half, several SU bench pieces saw increased playing time, but the strategy didn’t pay immediate dividends. Pitt pounced on mistakes and drove its lead to 72-52 with 10:31 remaining. Faced with a yawning gap, SU’s freshmen pieces off the bench went to work. Forward Maliq Brown set career highs with 27 minutes and nine rebounds, while freshman guard Quadir Copeland spent time at small forward and registered Orange career highs in minutes (13), points (10), and rebounds (5). An SU scoring barrage and 30-11 run followed, helped along by a strong day from Mintz, who tied a career-high with 24 points, and a second-half resurgence from Girard (5-of-11 shooting, 16 points). Armed with several players in foul trouble and without standout big John Hugley IV, the Panthers struggled defensively and to hold onto the basketball during a 16-turnover evening.

In the final minute, a lack of execution by Syracuse following timeouts doomed the comeback effort. Syracuse trailed 83-82 with 17 seconds remaining, but Judah Mintz ventured into the lane and fired an errant pass to Pitt forward Blake Hinson. Hinson missed one of two subsequent free throws, but SU couldn’t capitalize on its final play as Mintz’s three-point attempt fell off the mark as time expired.

On the day, Hinson led the Panthers in scoring with 25 points on a 9-of-19 shooting day. Mintz led the way for SU with 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting. On the evening, the Orange missed 18 three-pointers to tie a season high.

Syracuse is back in action on New Year’s Eve inside the JMA Wireless Dome against Boston College with a chance to raise its conference record back above .500. Tipoff is at 3 P.M. Eastern.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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