Syracuse and Pitt appeared destined for the naughty list, but the last several weeks might be enough for the ACC rivals to warrant “nice” designations.
The resurgent Orange will aim for their sixth straight win Tuesday when they host the Panthers, who have enjoyed a similarly pleasant turnaround as the calendar year winds to a close.
Syracuse (8-4, 1-0 ACC) lost three straight games at the end of November, including a home setback to Bryant and a 29-point defeat against then-No. 16 Illinois. However, the Orange have recovered to enjoy a perfect 5-0 mark in December, featuring wins over Notre Dame and Georgetown.
Most recently, Syracuse topped Cornell 78-63 on Saturday as Joe Girard led all five starters in double figures with 19 points. Jesse Edwards contributed 11 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Orange, who used a 20-2 second-half run to pull away from the Big Red.
Now the Orange will turn their attention to the Panthers (8-4, 1-0), who also lost three straight early in the campaign, including lopsided defeats against West Virginia (81-56) and Michigan (91-60). However, Pitt has surged with seven wins in its last eight games, including a 26-point rout of North Florida its last time out.
“I’ve watched Pittsburgh a lot lately,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They’re really playing good basketball. They’re a completely different team than last year and the beginning of (this season). They’re good, so we’ll have a really tough game on Tuesday.”
In the win over North Florida, Pitt shot 52.5 percent from the field and outrebounded the Ospreys 43-27 despite playing without forward John Hugley (personal reasons). Coach Jeff Capel was unsure whether the junior would make the trip to Syracuse.
“He’s fine,” Capel said of Hugley. “It’s nothing physical, nothing academic, nothing off the court. Just dealing with some things. We support him, we have his back and we want to help him.”
Federiko Federiko led the Panthers with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Blake Hinson added 18 points.
Pitt is seeking its fourth win in the last five matchups with Syracuse. The teams split last season’s two-game series.
–Field Level Media