SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim breathed a sigh of relief. Five days after his Orange’s biggest win of the season, there was no letdown.
Tyus Battle scored 22 points, Boeheim’s son Buddy had a season-high 13 points, and Syracuse beat Pittsburgh 74-63 on Saturday, the Orange’s zone defense thwarting the youthful Panthers from exerting their strong point, converting tough drives to the basket.
“We battled hard. They’re a tough, physical team,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “It was a good, solid win. There’s nothing easy.”
Syracuse (13-5, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) rebounded from a bad home loss to Georgia Tech a week ago to beat undermanned No. 1 Duke in overtime on the road Monday night. The Orange throttled the Panthers with a 22-4 surge in a span of just over seven minutes in the second half to take command.
Pittsburgh (12-6, 2-3) shot just 33.8 percent for the game, not far off its season low, and attempted a season-high 35 3-pointers. That’s not their game.
“Their zone took us out of any sort of rhythm,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We could never get into a rhythm offensively, and I thought our inexperience and immaturity really hurt us.”
Pittsburgh was coming off a 75-62 home win over No. 11 Florida State on Monday, its first victory over a ranked team in nearly two years. But the Panthers still haven’t mastered the road. They’ve lost 17 consecutive road games, including 14 in ACC play. Pitt’s last road win was an 83-72 victory against Boston College nearly two years ago.
“We couldn’t score and some of the players on the team got down on themselves,” said Pitt freshman Xavier Johnson, who finished with 17 points. “We can’t have mental lapses like that. We’d seen what their percentages were from 3, so we were playing off them. But they showed up and made shots.”
Syracuse, which entered the game shooting 30.4 percent from 3, finished 12 of 26 (46.2 percent) against the Panthers, who hit just 11 from long range. The Orange hit 11 3-pointers in the win over the Blue Devils.
“They played well, especially in the second half,” Capel said. “They got into a rhythm offensively. They hit shots. They hit 3s, something they haven’t been doing. I know they hit 11 against Duke, but we tried to play the percentages a little bit and they hurt us from the 3-point line.”
Oshae Brissett added 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks for Syracuse, and Paschal Chukwu had 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Jared Wilson-Frame led Pitt with 19 points, but the other two-thirds of Pitt’s standout freshman trio, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney, didn’t fare so well against the Syracuse zone, which registered 10 blocks. McGowens, who suffered an injury near his right eye in the first half, finished with seven points, 10 below his average, and Toney also had seven as they combined to shoot just 5 of 23.
The Orange throttled the Panthers with a 22-4 surge in a span of just over seven minutes in the second half to take command.
“When you have a young team and being on the road, a couple of guys were a little bit down on themselves and people’s faces were kind of a little sad,” Wilson-Frame said. “In situations like that you have to get together and get a little closer as a team. By the time you make a late push you’re down 20. It’s kind of too late.”
BATTLE AT THE POINT
Battle again played extended minutes at point guard and excelled after a slow start, finishing 9 of 17 from the floor, 3 of 7 from long range. Entering the game he had hit just 3 of 17 from 3 in four conference games.
“We did the same things we did at Duke, we just let him have the ball right away,” coach Boeheim said. “That way they can’t keep him from getting it, and he scored 10, 12 points from the point. He was trying to run the team earlier this year. Now he’s just trying to take advantage of the middle ball screens because he’s got the ball.”
Boeheim’s youngest son Buddy is an ace outside shooter but has struggled as a rookie, shooting just 25 percent from behind the arc before Saturday. He was 4 of 5 against Pitt.
“My teammates are just telling me to get in and shoot the ball no matter what,” Buddy said. “If I’m open, just shoot it. That means a lot to me as a shooter. It’s something you need. You need your teammates to believe in you.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers, who went winless in the conference last season under former coach Kevin Stallings, are well ahead of last year under Jeff Capel, but they have to figure out a way to win on the road to take that next step.
Syracuse: The Orange had to take advantage of their big overtime victory at top-ranked Duke on Monday. Games against two more ranked teams loom — Virginia Tech on the road and Florida State at home — to provide more chances to beef up the Orange’s resume for postseason consideration.
Pittsburgh: Hosts Duke on Tuesday night.
Syracuse: Hosts Miami on Thursday night.