The Panthers needed a win over a bold-named opponent to boost their nice but hardly overwhelming resume. Pitt came in just 1-3 against ranked teams, the lone win a 25-point romp over Georgetown last month that sent the Hoyas tumbling out of the polls.
This one should have a little more resonance.
The Panthers controlled the final 20 minutes and never really allowed Syracuse to get going. The Orange, down to seven scholarship players because of injuries and other personnel issues, shot just 37 percent (18 of 49) and were dominated on the backboards. Pittsburgh outrebounded Syracuse 39-24. The Panthers had 14 offensive rebounds, allowing them to extend possessions and slow down the game.
The game was tied at 35-35 midway through the second half when Pitt took control for good. Cam Wright hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring to put the Panthers in front. Lamar Patterson followed with a pullup jumper, and Steven Adams put back a miss that allowed Pitt to push in front 41-35.
It wasn't exactly the bounce back performance Syracuse needed after a long week to think about a 75-71 overtime loss to Villanova.
The Orange played without center DaJuan Coleman, who underwent left knee surgery Tuesday that will sideline him for at least four weeks. Coleman's injury significantly shortened Syracuse's bench, though depth hardly was necessary during a methodical, hard-fought first half in which neither team could muster any momentum.
Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone never has been much of an issue for Pitt under coach Jamie Dixon. The Panthers began the day 9-3 against the Orange during Dixon's tenure and, after a slow start, Pitt once again found the little creases in Syracuse's defense to get open shots. The Panthers started the game 1 of 8 but finished the half 12 of 26, with all but two of the buckets coming off assists.