Thursday, March 14, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Syracuse 62, Pittsburgh 59
By Kieran Darcy
NEW YORK -- A quick look at Syracuse's 62-59 win over Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament.
What it means: Syracuse is headed to the Big East semifinals, and one more tussle with archrival Georgetown. Pittsburgh, a member of the Big East since 1982, has played its final game as a member of the conference.
The No. 19-ranked Orange (25-8, 11-7) arrived in New York in a slump, losing four of five to end the regular season. But they've now won back-to-back games at Madison Square Garden, defeating Seton Hall by 12 on Wednesday, and then holding off Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The No. 17-ranked Panthers (24-8, 12-6) closed the regular season with four wins in a row, but exit this tournament after just one game.
The turning point: The game was tied at 14 midway through the first half, before Syracuse went on a pair of runs. The Orange scored 10 straight points -- with two 3-pointers by James Southerland, and two buckets by Brandon Triche -- to go ahead by a dozen at 27-15. Pittsburgh closed to within five, 32-27, on a pair of James Robinson free throws. But then Syracuse scored eight straight to end the half, capped off by a C.J. Fair 3-pointer at the buzzer (courtesy of a very friendly bounce). The Orange led 40-27 at intermission.
Pittsburgh closed to within four, 47-43, on a Tray Woodall 3-pointer with 8:39 remaining. But on Syracuse's very next possession, Michael Carter-Williams -- a 27.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc -- answered with a 3 of his own, making it 50-43. But Pitt wasn't finished. In fact, the Panthers had a chance to tie the game -- Talib Zanna scored a putback to make it 58-57 with 31 seconds left, and was fouled on the play. But Zanna missed the free throw, Carter-Williams got the rebound, and was fouled.
Carter-Williams sank both ends of the 1-and-1, but Pittsburgh, trailing 60-57, still had one more chance to tie the game. Then Carter-Williams stole a pass from Robinson, was fouled, sank both ends of another 1-and-1, and the Orange emerged victorious.
Star watch: Southerland is the early front-runner for tournament MVP. The 6-foot-8 senior swingman, a New York City native, scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown. Southerland also scored 20, shooting 6-for-9 from deep, in the Orange's win over Seton Hall on Wednesday.
C.J. Fair had 13 points and seven rebounds for Syracuse, and Triche added 12 points. Carter-Williams had 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and made the key plays down the stretch.
Pittsburgh had four players in double figures, led by Lamar Patterson (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Woodall (12 points). Zanna and Robinson scored 10 points apiece.
Number crunch: Syracuse shot an astounding 12-for-19 from 3-point range (63.2 percent). Pittsburgh made half as many -- 6-for-19 (31.6 percent).
The Panthers dominated the Orange on the offensive glass 20-8. But they made just 11 of 19 free throws (57.9 percent).
What's next: Syracuse, the No. 5 seed, will play No. 1 seed Georgetown, Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The Hoyas won both regular-season meetings between the teams, including a 61-39 pasting of the Orange last Saturday in D.C.
Pittsburgh returns home to prepare for the NCAA tournament. Prior to Thursday's loss, the Panthers were projected as a No. 5 seed in the latest edition of ESPN.com's Bracketology (as was Syracuse).