PITTSBURGH—Both the Panthers and their fans have been looking for a bona fide signature win this year. They have one now. Pitt wore down #6 Syracuse and pulled away late for a 65-55 win in front of a raucous 'Gold-Out,' standing-room only crowd of 12,632 at the Petersen Events Center.
"We had some great performances but everybody played well," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "Our crowd was unbelievable. What an atmosphere."
He pointed to the Panthers' rebounding advantage in the second half as a key to the game. Pitt (18-5, 6-4 Big East) out-rebounded Syracuse (18-3, 6-2 Big East) by15 rebounds overall (39-24) after Pitt only led by one rebound (16-15) after the first half.
"We were real excited about the rebounds. We did a great job on the glass," Dixon said. "I told the team we needed to out-rebound them by 15 and we got there."
The Panthers also pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, which Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim felt was the Orange's downfall. Talib Zanna led all rebounders with 12 which included six offensive and six defensive.
"The story was on the glass in the second half. Their rebounds were under the basket and they finished. The offensive boards in the second half was the difference" Boeheim said. "In my opinion, they are the best rebounding team in the league. I thought that was apparent in the game."
The Orange only dressed seven scholarship players for the game. It was apparent late in the game that they were worn down. Their long-range jumpers were off and they were getting manhandled on the boards. Pitt's defense held Syracuse to less than 37 percent shooting from the floor.
Dixon pointed out that Pitt's ten-man rotation is working out better than he had anticipated earlier in the year. His bench outscored Syracuse's bench 31-3.
"Our strength is playing ten guys. They all scored. Nine of them got rebounds. That says a lot," Dixon said. "I thought earlier in the season ten may be too many but now I've changed my mind. I thought it was key today."
Only one Panther scored in double-figures as Tray Woodall scored 13 including a game-clinching performance in the last minute. He converted a traditional three-point play and sunk five free throws on six attempts.
"I don’t think many teams have ten-men rotations. We want to wear down most teams," Woodall said. "We felt like it was a must win. Everybody left everything on the floor."
Pitt had 19 assists as a team on 24 field goals. Syracuse had only five assists and committed 14 turnovers. Pitt had 20 turnovers but the Panthers converted 15 points off turnovers while the Orange scored 12 points off turnovers.
Syracuse was led by C.J. Fair with 20 points. Brandon Triche scored 14 and Michael Carter-Williams added 13. The rest of the Orange only scored eight points.
"[Pitt] is a tremendous defensive team. We knew we would have trouble scoring against them," Boeheim said. "When the game was in doubt, we had some opportunities but didn’t finish. The game was even for a long time."
"I thought [Pitt] would be leading the league right now when I saw them earlier in the year. I think they will be difficult to lose more games," Boeheim said. "I think they're the best team we played this year, by far, it wasn't even close. It’s a good rivalry. They're a good team. We'll be playing them in the ACC."
The Panthers will not have long to celebrate this win. They host Seton Hall on Monday night at 9 p.m.
"It's a quick turnaround. We've had so many of these," Dixon said. "Now I'll be focusing on Seton Hall."
for more info: Pitt web site