The #2 Syracuse Orange (18-0, 5-0) outlasted the #21 Pittsburgh Panthers (16-2, 4-1) 59-54 in front of more than 30,000 people in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Pittsburgh was able to get the ball inside early on, moving the ball inside and outside, resulting in two James Robinson jump shots and a Talib Zanna rebound and layup underneath, making the score 7-2 Panthers. A Rakeem Christmas lefty swish in the lane made the score 7-4 going into the first TV timeout.
That's when C.J. Fair started to warm up, first slashing into the lane for a lefty lay-in, followed by a three-pointer from the left corner to give the Orange a 9-7 advantage.
Pitt answered with two Cameron Wright jumpers to retake the lead. But, once again the Orange answered, as a run that included a Trevor Cooney three-pointer and a Rakeem Christmas lay-in made the score 17-12 Orange.
After the Panthers closed the gap to four, Jerami Grant popped the rim with another explosive putback dunk, which was answered by a Lamar Patterson jump shot on the other end. With less than a minute to go in the half, Baye Keita trapped a Lamar Patterson layup attempt, causing a jump ball. The Orange not only got possession, but Pitt coach Jamie Dixon also was given a technical foul for arguing with the referees. But, C.J. Fair missed both of the technical free throws, and then Michael Gbinije turned the ball over, so the Orange could not take advantage, and went into the half up 25-21.
After the two teams exchanged baskets to begin the second half, Tyler Ennis first made a fadeaway jumper, then seconds later stole the ball from Michael Young, which translated into a Trevor Cooney transition three-pointer. Jamie Dixon was forced to call a timeout as the Orange took a 32-25 lead.
Moments later, Tyler Ennis hit a deep three-pointer, giving the Orange the ten-point advantage. But, Pitt would find their answer in Lamar Patterson, who hit three three-point baskets in a row to cut the lead to three.
After a Talib Zanna jumper briefly tied the game, C.J. Fair retook the lead with a jump shot of his own. Patterson had more left in the tank, making a three-pointer from NBA range to give the Panthers a 49-48 lead with six minutes to play.
The two teams exchanged free throws for the next few minutes, but after a Zanna missed jumper, the Orange had the ball with less than two minutes to play, down one point 52-51. Tyler Ennis drove into the lane, hanging in midair, and finished a teardrop layup to give the Orange the lead.
On the other end, Patterson missed a three-pointer, Cameron Wright missed a three-pointer, and after an SU timeout the Orange had the ball with a one-point lead with 41 seconds to play.
Once again it was Ennis, this time driving with the left hand and finishing, giving the Orange the three point lead with 30 seconds left. Ennis and Rakeem Christmas would go 4-4 from the free throw line to ice it, the Orange going on to win 59-54.
Ennis finished with 16 points in the victory, with C.J. Fair pitching in 13 points and six rebounds, Jerami Grant 12 points and Rakeem Christmas with 10.
In the losing effort, Patterson finished with 18, and Zanna notched a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Orange has a week off before visiting Miami on Saturday, January 25th. Tip time is set for 1 p.m.