Pitt can’t say it wasn’t warned.
Syracuse players talked at length about how the rematch against Pitt was going to be different. They equated the matchup to “war” and spelled out clearly how they were tired of the Panthers having the upper hand in the series.
So in a Big East tournament quarterfinal game earlier today, Syracuse took the fight to Pitt and the Panthers did not fight back until it was too late.
Pitt showed up in the second half, but by then the hole they dug was too deep. A 13-point halftime deficit was too much to overcome and they fell, 62-59.
Syracuse, simply put, was better prepared to play. Syracuse ran its offense well, got the ball into the hands of its hot shooter and earned a four-rebound edge by being the more physical team.
“First half, they came out with more intensity and more energy than us,” freshman forward Durand Johnson said. “We were passive and laid back and they got after it. They were getting loose balls and we weren’t.”
Pitt got most of the loose balls in the second half and 16 more rebounds. The deficit was cut to one with 30 seconds left and Talib Zanna had a chance to tie. But he missed and Syracuse sealed the win at the free-throw line.
“You spot a team a good amount of points it’s going to be hard to get out of that hole,” freshman guard James Robinson said.
Pitt now awaits its NCAA tournament opponent. That will be announced Sunday. The Panthers were a No. 5 seed in ESPN and CBS’ projected brackets before the Syracuse game. We’ll find out Sunday if the loss cost the Panthers to fall lower.
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