Syracuse Basketball Will Try To Keep Momentum Going Against Pitt

If the Syracuse basketball team has serious hopes of making the NCAA tourney, they’ve got to build some momentum in conference play.

The Syracuse basketball squad, fresh off its best performance of the year, hopes to keep the momentum going when it hosts Pittsburgh at noon on Saturday, Jan. 7.

The Panthers (12-3) are led by first-year head coach Kevin Stallings, who joined Pittsburgh after a long run at the helm of Vanderbilt.

Previous head coach Jamie Dixon (I don’t like that guy) owned the Orange, going 15-7 against SU. All-time, the ‘Cuse holds a 65-44 advantage, but the Panthers have claimed victories in five consecutive contests.

Last time these two former Big East – and now ACC – rivals faced off, Pittsburgh squeaked past Syracuse, 72-71, this past March in the second round of the ACC Tournament, held in Washington, D.C. I attended that game. Ugh.

Earlier this week, on Jan. 4, the Orange beat Miami by 15 points, easily its marquee triumph of the 2016-17 campaign. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, knocked off No. 11 Virginia, 88-76, on that same day.

The Panthers have solid conquests of Maryland on the road, as well as at neutral sites versus Marquette and Penn State. Pittsburgh’s setbacks, so far, are by one point to No. 24 Notre Dame, along with SMU and Duquesne (a head-scratcher).

SU and Pitt have one common opponent, Eastern Michigan, with the Panthers winning by 3 points in its season-opener, while the Orange crushed the Eagles, 105-57.

Offensively, the Panthers can fill up the basket. They average 82 points, while connecting on 48 percent from the field, 73 percent from the charity stripe and 39 percent from 3-point land. Those statistics, other than the shooting percentage from downtown, are slightly ahead of SU.

Assists and rebounds are virtually even. Syracuse, however, does give up fewer points per game (66) than Pittsburgh (76). Under Stallings, it appears that the Panthers are pushing the tempo more, leading to more scoring but also more points allowed.

Seniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis average roughly 23 and 21 points, respectively, among the

highest in the conference to date. Young, in fact, is the No. 1 scorer in the ACC. These guys have killed Syracuse in the past, and SU players must continue to shore up their defense, and contain Artis and Young as much as possible.

It’s also worth noting that Pittsburgh possesses three starters who make more than 40 percent of their attempts from 3-point range. The ‘Cuse 2-3 zone, porous at times, better bring its A-game.

In recent years, head coach Jim Boeheim has not had much success against the Panthers, and this year’s Pittsburgh team is playing well. If Syracuse could secure a victory over this nemesis from Pennsylvania, it would undoubtedly provide a further boost to the Orange’s ongoing confidence level.
Here’s hoping that the Stallings era begins in a style much different from how the Dixon one ended. The Carrier Dome crowd rocked during this past Wednesday’s win versus Miami. Let’s make it two-for-two against Pittsburgh.

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