Freshman Tyler Ennis scored six points in the final 1:48 to lead #2/2 Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC) past #22/21 Pittsburgh (16-2, 4-1 ACC) on Saturday, Jan. 18, in front of 30,046 at the Carrier Dome.
After leading for most of the afternoon, SU let Pitt get back into the game with a 12-3 run that gave the visitors a 49-48 lead - its first since a 12-10 edge early in the opening half.
SU went on to outscore the Panthers 11-5 over the final 5:59, while holding Pitt without a basket (0-8) for the remainder of the contest. Trailing 52-51, Ennis sliced through the lane for the underhand scoop to put the Orange on top for good with less than two minutes to go. Ennis broke free for another layup with just 31 seconds left to push Syracuse's margin to 55-52 and he and junior Rakeem Christmas each converted two free throws in the final five seconds to seal the victory.
The win pushed the Orange's record 18-0 for the third time in four seasons and is tied for the third-best start in program history. For the second consecutive home game, the attendance topped 30,000 with a total of 30,046 fans coming out to support Syracuse.
Ennis finished with a team-high 16 points, with 14 of those coming after the intermission. Senior C.J. Fair added 13 points and squad bests of six rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore Jerami Grant contributed 12 points and four boards while Christmas posted 10 points and three blocks.
Trailing 7-2 less than three minutes into the game, Syracuse recorded seven straight points – five from Fair – to go ahead for the first time at 9-7. The teams traded the advantage twice over the next three minutes with SU ultimately grabbing the lead for the remainder of the half following another seven-point run to push the score to 15-12. Following a layup by Fair and a putback slam from Grant, the Orange held its largest margin of the opening 20 minutes at 21-15.
Pittsburgh was able to get within two on two occasions - the last one cutting the deficit to 23-21 with three minutes left in the half. A pair of free throws by sophomore Michael Gbinije with 86 seconds on the clock set the halftime score at 25-21 in favor of the hosts.
SU took its largest lead of the game at 37-27 following an Ennis trifecta that capped a 10-2 run. Pittsburgh's Lamar Patterson responded by hitting a three-pointer on three consecutive trips down the court to get the Panthers back within a basket at 39-36 with just over 13 minutes remaining.
Over the next six minutes, both squads continued to go back and forth until Pittsburgh scored six straight points to pull even at 46-46 with just under seven minutes to play. Fair made a jumper to put SU back on top, but Patterson nailed his fourth three of the second half to give the Panthers a 49-48 edge. Both teams made three free throws apiece during the next four minutes of play when Ennis took over to help lift the Orange in the end.
Syracuse outshot the Panthers 51.2-percent (21-41) to 38.3-percent (18-47). That figure was aided by a 60-percent (12-20) shooting effort in the second half for the Orange. SU also owned a 14-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
Pittsburgh, however, stayed in the game on the strength of their rebounding which created numerous second chance opportunities. The Panthers out-rebounded the Orange 35-24, including 16 to 4 on the offensive end, which gave way to a 19-2 margin in second chance points.
Patterson led all scorers with 18 points while going 4-of-9 from long distance. Talib Zanna recorded a double-double for the Panthers with 12 points and 11 boards.
SU heads down to Miami on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 1 p.m. where the two teams will meet for the second time in just four weeks.