College Hoops Monday Recap: Panthers Hand Syracuse Their First Loss

    
January 18th, 2011
While games tend to have their fair share of dueling spurts and runs, few can match what was seen at the Petersen Events Center on Monday night. Pittsburgh sprinted out of the gates, scoring the first 19 points of the game with Nasir Robinson providing nine of his career-high 21 points during that stretch. But the better teams are able to answer and that's exactly what Syracuse did despite playing without leading scorer Kris Joseph (head injury), going on a 17-0 run to close to within two points with 6:03 left in the half. But while the Orange would eventually tie the game at 41 with 13:51 left in the game on a James Southerland three-pointer they were unable to take the lead at any point in the game. Pitt was eventually able to gain some separation, getting their lead back up to as many 11 before winning 74-66. The win not only moves the Panthers to 9-2 against Syracuse during Jamie Dixon's tenure, but it also marks the first time ever that they've started Big East play 6-0.

"We got off to a great start but we knew Syracuse wasn't going to quit or shut down so it was the game we expected," said Coach Dixon. "I was excited about how we executed against the zone. We did hit a little lull but we made some adjustments and found a way to finish it off."

Pitt shot 48.2% from the field and assisted on 18 of their 27 made field goals, which shouldn't surprise anyone given the Panthers' status as one of the top teams in America in regards to assists per game. Also true to form Pitt controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Orange 44-30 with Gary McGhee grabbing a game-high 13. This is where the other major issue for the Orange showed up, with freshmen centers Fab Melo and Moussa Keita not exactly being ready for the magnitude of the game (eight minutes combined, with the only production being one FG attempt and a foul from Melo). Head coach Jim Boeheim had to go smaller the remainder of the game (Rick Jackson at center) in hopes of combatting the defensive breakdowns in the paint that contributed to the 19-0 start and while reserves such as C.J. Fair (16 points, nine rebounds) and Dion Waiters (nine points, six rebounds) chipped in it wasn't enough to knock off one of America's deepest teams.

"Our centers got off to a horrendous start," remarked Coach Boeheim after the game. "Part of the seven points they scored right off the bat was because of the centers. Our guys are young. They just weren't ready tonight."

Brad Wanamaker finished with six assists to just one turnover in addition to scoring 15 points while Ashton Gibbs scored 11, knocking down a big three-pointer to put the Panthers up nine (62-53) with 6:32 left in the game. While Pittsburgh used just one more player (nine) than Syracuse their rotation proved to be more effective, with each of those players providing a contribution of some sort. As for the Orange the only problem in Monday's loss that has the potential to be a long-term concern would have to be the freshmen centers. Keita had played well for much of the year while Melo was slowly working himself into more opportunities. But they're going to need to improve defensively as Syracuse approaches March, as both will be called on at some point to make a play. And it's not the end of the world when you're dealing with this while boasting an 18-1 record. It just so happens that depth and experience won out in the Steel City, a formula that has Pittsburgh sitting atop the Big East. (quotes courtesy of Pittsburgh Athletics)

Other Notable Happenings

1. Kansas gets about whatever they want offensively in beating Baylor.
While Kansas winning at Baylor isn't a surprise given their status as the #2 team in America, the way in which Bill Self's team performed in Waco was in regards to how easy they made it look. The Morris twins combined for 44 points and 14 rebounds and as a team Kansas shot 62.5% from the field with five players total reaching double figures. Baylor's matchup zone didn't work at keeping the Jayhawks from rotating the ball around the court, getting carved up to the point where Baylor even went man-to-man for a few possessions (that didn't work either). Just two days after being referred to as the worst 17-0 team in the country by their head coach the Jayhawks made an emphatic statement to the contrary in moving to 18-0. Add in Tyshawn Taylor's solid defensive effort on LaceDarius Dunn and outside of some early turnovers you had arguably Kansas' best performance of the season given the opponent and location. Perry Jones III and Anthony Jones combined for 37 points but with Quincy Acy in foul trouble all night the Bears weren't able to consistently field their best defensive lineup.

2. Kemba Walker's floater proves to be the difference in UConn's win over Villanova.
Kemba Walker had chances to put the game away before having to provide more late-game heroics, but he missed a pair of free throws then fouled Corey Fisher as the visiting Wildcats eventually pulled even at 59. But one of the favorites for national Player of the Year came through in the end, splitting an oncoming double team and canning a floater with 2.5 seconds remaining to give UConn a 61-59 victory at Gampel Pavilion. Fisher led all scorers with 28 points, and without him the game likely gets ugly for Villanova as Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns were unable to get going against the Connecticut defense. Kemba may have shot his lowest percentage in a game this season (6-for-18), but not only did he get to the foul line but Alex Oriakhi (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Jeremy Lamb (14 points, eight rebounds) chipped in to lend a helping hand. That's been the question in regards to the young Huskies this season: who would step up to help the All-America candidate? And as the season rolls on UConn seems to find more answers, which is a very encouraging sign.

3. Missouri pulls away in the second half to take care of Kansas State.
There was a good deal of talk from Kansas State players about the value of Friday's physical practice, stating that they knew who was ready to battle for every possession after that session. But applying those lessons against Texas Tech is far different than doing so at Missouri, as the Tigers were able to force 24 K-State turnovers on their way to the 75-59 victory. Marcus Denmon led five Missouri players in double figures with 14 points, and the Tigers' ability to defend the three pointer (KSU: 3-for-16) ultimately determined the outcome. Jacob Pullen led the Wildcats while Jordan Henriquez-Roberts added 14 off the bench, but when your other four starters combine to score 19 points you're going to have a hard time winning on the road. Will Spradling and Curtis Kelly turned the ball over six times apiece and none of the starters (which included Kelly) had fewer than two turnovers. Kansas State needed to display more fight after their loss to Colorado and they've done that. But they also need to display better decision-making if they're to perform as well as they can, a lesson their learned the hard way in Columbia.

Top Three Games

1. (8) Connecticut 61, (7) Villanova 59

2. Chattanooga 91, Charleston 88 Omar Wattad scored 27 points to help lead the Mocs to the victory at home, moving to 7-0 in the Southern Conference. Andrew Goudelock led the Cougars with 26 but it's tough to beat a team on the road when they make 53.4% of their shots.

3. Loyola (MD) 65, Saint Peter's 63 A Brian Rudolph jumper with one second remaining proved to be the difference in Jersey City as the Greyhounds won a game they only led for 15 seconds in the second half. Wesley Jenkins, named MAAC Player of the Week earlier Monday, led the Peacocks with 24.

Three Notable Performances

1. F Adnan Hodzic (Lipscomb) Scored 33 points (12-16 FG) and grabbed six rebounds in the Bisons' 92-81 win over Campbell.

2. G Corey Fisher (Villanova) 28 points, six assists (no turnovers) and three rebounds in the Wildcats' 61-59 loss at UConn.

3. Forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris (Kansas) Combined for 44 points (19-24 FG) and 14 rebounds in the Jayhawks' 85-65 win at Baylor.