It’s rivalry week on ESPN and the worldwide leader pinned an old-fashioned Big East battle on the schedule for Wednesday night as the Syracuse Orange travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.
These two teams have both had success during their first season in the ACC. Syracuse, 23-0 (10-0), is in first place in the conference while Pittsnurgh, 20-4 (8-3), are in fourth. This will be the second time these rivals have met this year, the Orange coming away with the win 59-54 at the Carrier Dome on January 18th. The Orange shot 21-41 (51 percent) in the first meeting but hit just four of their 15 three-point attempts. The Panthers shot just 38 percent from the field, but were able to out rebound the Orange 31-21, including 12 on the offensive end.
Pittsburgh star Lamar Patterson had 18 points on 4-9 three-point shooting to lead a second half surge for the Panthers. Tyler Ennis, however, added seven of his 16 points in the last 5:19 of the game to help the Orange finish the game on an 11-5 run. The Orange will need to get Trevor Cooney hot this game after he shot just 2-8 in the first meeting.
The Panthers shoot 46.8 percent from the field as a team, second in the ACC, so the Orange holding them to just 38 percent in the first game might have been something that will be hard to repeat. The Panthers also lead the ACC in assists with 16.1 per game and turn the ball over just 10.3 times per game. The Orange will need to disrupt the efficient Panther offense and limit one of either their assist/turnover ratio or their field goal percentage in order to win, just like they did the last game.
The Pick: Pittsburgh is one of the more physical teams on Syracuse’s schedule and head coach Jamie Dixon knows Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone very well. With that being said and the fact that Baye Moussa Keita might be out for the Orange with a sprained right knee, the Panthers have the advantage. Without Keita, the Orange would only have one active player who has played substantial minutes in the center position of the zone, Rakeem Christmas. Five fouls at the center position is not a lot of depth, so Jerami Grant has been practicing at the center position this week and he even had some minutes in that spot against Clemson. “The Zoo” is a tough place to win on any given day, and without Keita it would be even more difficult. Tonight, with or without Keita, the Syracuse winning streak will come to an end, Pittsburgh wins 61-51.
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
When: 7 p.m. ET