Syracuse Falls From Ranks of Unbeaten, What Happened? (Part 2)

Ryan MaloneyContributor IIJanuary 5, 2010

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange looks on against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic on November 20, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As I stated in part one , I was not able to watch the Syracuse-Pittsburgh game live on Saturday. However, Sean Keeley of tweeted a Verizon user name and password for all to use to watch the replay on Today, I discovered that I had the game saved on my DVR all along.  So now please allow me to share my thoughts as I view the second half of the game in full HD glory for the first time.

First off, let me recap my summation of the first half:

Without viewing the second half, I can already tell that this is the kind if loss that is going to gnaw at me for the remainder of the season.  Pittsburgh is still in this game because of one man, Ashton Gibbs.  He hit four-of-six from long range to account for nearly half of his team's first-half points.

Syracuse has distributed the ball fairly well through 20 minutes.  Andy Rautins is not having his best game.  He's had a few shots that, had they gone down, would have driven a stake through the heart of the Panthers.  Couple that with a few bad turnovers and you've got a case of a superior Orange team allowing an opponent to hang around.  It will cost them. I can wait to watch that part.

I did wait; two days to be exact.  Now, it's time to observe the suck.


  • Pittsburgh has possession to open the second half.  They trail 30-27.  Their first offensive possession is not very impressive.  They get the ball reversed a few times, but then Ashton Gibbs just dribbles to the left elbow and clanks a floater off the rim.  Robinson gets the offensive rebound, but he misses as well.  Arinze Onuaku has the rebound stripped away from him by one of the smallest guys on the floor in Jermaine Dixon, who promptly feeds Robinson for a layup.  The Orange big men looked lazy right there, as both Onuaku and Jackson allowed themselves to get pushed under the basket, placing them in poor position to grab the board.
  • Syracuse's first possession is a good one.  Wes Johnson tries to set a screen for Andy Rautins to pop out to the wing.  Ashton Gibbs—Rautins' defender—tries to cheat the screen and beat Rautins to the perimeter.  Rautins reads this and slips back door for an easy layup after a perfect feed from Onuaku at the top of the arc.
  • Jermaine Dixon hits another long, contested three-pointer to tie the game at 32-32. These shots are just flat out annoying. Wes Johnson gives the Panthers momentum when he tries to dribble through a double-team and gets stripped, resulting in a transition layup for Gibbs. Pitt has their first lead in the game's 32nd minute.
  • Wes Johnson comes around a screen from Rick Jackson in the paint to get an open layup on the right low block. I still like how the Orange move without the ball.  That has been one of my biggest peeves about the team for the past few years, too many guys just standing and watching.  Not this season. Good riddance to guys like Donté Greene and Eric Devendorf.
  • Syracuse gets a stop when Gibbs misses a baseline jumper.  He moved freely—without the ball—from the top of the key, down to the paint, then out to the left baseline before getting fed for the shot.  Johnson was able to come over and get a hand in his face on the shot, but Gibbs should have been met with some contact when he ran in amongst the trees.  Syracuse is getting passive on defense.
  • Onuaku nearly falls down trying to back his man down in the post with a dribble.  He then turns to his left and throws up an ugly air ball.   That's as good as a steal for Pitt and they draw a shooting foul at the other end after pushing the ball quickly down court.  Two free throws later, they lead 36-34.  Wes Johnson comes off a screen to miss an open 16-footer for 'Cuse.  Rick Jackson had a beat on the rebound, but appears to get pushed away from it.  No foul is called and Pitt is off and running.  Brad Wannamaker takes three-steps on his way to the basket -- no call -- and hits a layup to give the Panthers a four-point edge.  That's two frustrating no-calls in a row for Syracuse fans.
  • Boeheim calls timeout.  When he did that in the first half, Syracuse came out and scored off a set pick-and-roll play.  Here, Rautins launches a long three and front-rims it.  Pitt can't get into their transition offense, so they work the ball around the perimeter until Dixon drives baseline.  Ss the big men collapse on him, he gives a no-look feed to Gary McGhee.  McGhee is fouled and makes both free throws and the Panthers are on a 13-4 run.
  • Onuaku tries posting up with the ball again for Syracuse.  He takes a few dribbles, then spins to his left again.  This resulted in an air ball a few trips ago, now it's a charge.  He needs to stop backing guys down off the dribble.  Dixon misses a long three at the other end, but Onuaku lets the rebound hit the floor and gets stripped of it.  He was truly awful on this day.  The Panthers call timeout after gaining possession in a scrum on the floor.
  • Onuaku swats an attempted shot off the inbound.  The ball goes flying towards the Pitt back court, but neither Rautins or Brandon Triche are speedy enough to track it down.  Ashton Gibbs is.  He gets Pitt back into their half court offense.  Dixon penetrates to the left elbow and kicks to the left wing for Gibbs, who pump fakes.  Rautins flies at him, leaving his feet.  Gibbs easily sends it back to Dixon who has repositioned himself for a three near the top of the arc.  He connects and it's a nine-point Pitt lead.  Pitt is whistled for a push at the other end and we're finally at the media break.


  • Rautins hits a baseline jumper off the in bounds pass to get the crowd back into it.  The Orange now slap on a full-court trapping press.  Triche intercepts a pass in the Pitt back court and draws a foul.  He misses both free throws.  Oy.
  • Pitt continues to work the ball from wing-to-wing on the perimeter, forcing the Syracuse zone to move from side-to-side.  Gilbert Brown flashes to an open spot on the left elbow and hits a turnaround jumper.  This is a big difference from the first half, where Pitt just settled for outside shots without working the ball inside.  They're being patient and trying to find other prone areas to attack and are only taking outside shots after trying something inside first.
  • Kris Joseph comes right back for Syracuse and hits a runner after getting bumped.  There is no call and the Orange crowd is starting to become ornery.  Syracuse slaps on the press for the second time and it results in a second turnover as Brown travels.
  • The Orange then run a play they ran in the first, where Rautins comes around a screen from Joseph and takes a pass on the wing, only to feed a cutting Joseph for a layup.  This time, it fails.  Joseph gets his feet tangled with Gibbs and falls down.  The crowd wants a whistle and there should have been one.  Another look at the play shows that Joseph's timing was impeded because Gibbs wrapped his left arm around him while coming around his screen.  Now I can start to see why so many Orange fans were upset with the officiating, it was a tad on the brutal side.
  • Syracuse retains possession because Pitt fell out of bounds while trying to push the ball up court for a fast break.  Joseph tries to drive on his man again and gets pushed again.  This time, the refs call it.  The Orange then lob it into the paint for Johnson off the in bound, but his shot is rejected.  However, a late whistle puts him at the free throw line as a phantom foul is called on Dixon.  The officials are brutal, but it's now going both ways.  Johnson hits both shots and the Orange trail 45-40.
  • Pittsburgh finally breaks the Syracuse press after nearly turning it over in the back court.  Dixon travels in the front court, but the official says he called timeout before he fell down.  Replays show his pivot foot shuffling all over the place before he called the timeout.  Coming out of the timeout, Brown is whistled for an illegal screen on Scoop Jardine.  That's his fourth.
  • Scoop tries to go one-on-one the other way and throws up a terrible runner, but Johnson is right there for a put-back.  Syracuse is within three and they throw the press on yet again.  Pittsburgh barely breaks it before Rautins foolishly reaches in and gets called for a foul.  The Orange D gets a break when Woodall dribbles off his foot.  Rautins shovels the ball ahead to Jardine who has his layup blocked from behind.  Analyst Mike Kelley is amazed at the block.  That's one of the easiest plays to make in basketball when a guy goes up soft instead of utilizing a jump-stop and going up with two hands.  That's the difference between a three-point play and a no-point play.  You don't always have to live up to the nickname, Scoop.
  • Pitt comes back with a high-low pass that results in Donte Taylor getting fouled.  We head to the second media break with the score 45-42, Pitt.


  • There goes Scoop, firing up another dumb floater and missing.  And there's Wes, cleaning up the mess.  Two-point game as Tayor had hit one of his free throws.  Here comes the press.  Scoop lets Gibbs beat him easily down the left side of the floor.  The Panthers have numbers and Gibbs pulls up to shoot at the foul line.  He can stay right there because he got hacked by Johnson.  He's made 33 free throws in a row.  You can make it 35 now, new school record and a 48-44 lead for the Orange.
  • Rautins comes around a screen for an off-balance three at the other end.  He misses again.  That's not a great shot when you know it's not your night.  Syracuse is now over-pursuing like mad at the defensive end.  Pitt wisely weaves the ball in-then-out for an open three-pointer.  The lead is back up to seven.
  • Scoop drives into the lane once again.  This time he finds himself open after the help is slow to come over for Pitt.  He lays it in and we're back to a five-point game.  Scoop aimlessly jogs back and is out of position for the press.  Syracuse fans that want him to play 30 minutes a game are not watching closely.  Wannamaker goes coact-to-coast and gets fouled, hitting both free throws.
  • Wes Johnson tries posting up his much-shorter defender.  That's not something he does a whole lot, but it's good to see him finally exploiting the size difference.  He gets fouled and hits one free throw to cut the lead to six.
  • Woodall misses a baseline three, but Taylor gets the put-back after positioning himself on the right low block.  Scoop comes right back and feeds Johnson down low.  His layup rolls around the rim and then out.  Horrible break at this point in the game.  Gibbs comes back and hits a big three-pointer.  Eleven-point lead for Pitt.  
  • Jackson posts up on the right block, and his layup rolls all the way around and out.  Syracuse cannot catch a break.  Triche gets the offensive rebound, but his jumper misses.  Syracuse fouls on the rebound and Pitt his both free throws to expand the lead to 13.
  • Jardine penetrates yet again and flies into a defender as he kicks out to an open Triche.  He is whistled for charging.  However, the Orange stay in it when Pitt misses a three-pointer.  Scoop drives coast-to-coast and connects on a runner to make it an 11-point game once again.  However, Syracuse fouls while in the press and that will send Pitt back to the line again.  It was called on Wes Johnson, he now has four.  TV timeout.


  • Wannamaker hits both free throws and the Pitt lead is back to a baker's dozen.  Triche gets into the lane and misses a left-handed floater.  He tracks down his own rebound and Jardine decides to drive again.  He gets fouled taking another reckless runner and makes both free throws.  Again, the lead is cut to 11.
  • Pittsburgh breaks the press easily with ball movement and Dixon gets fouled by Jackson on a layup.  The crowd hates the call, but Jackson was pushing Dixon with his off-hand as he swatted the ball cleanly with the other.  Dixon makes one-of-two and pushes the lead to 63-51.
  • Wes Johnson goes back to the low block and dishes to a wide-open Jackson.  Rick wasn't ready for the pass and Pitt takes it away.  The Orange start aggressively trapping in the zone and get a steal and layup from Jardine.  Pitt lead back down to 10.
  • Again, the Orange are trapping in the half court.  Again, it throws Pittsburgh for a loop offensively.  Dixon finally decides to drive to the elbow and plows into Kris Joseph.  Incredibly, Joseph is whistled for a blocking foul.  Dixon hits his free throw before Pitt rebounds his miss on the second shot.  'Cuse continues the aggressive trap out of the 2-3 zone, but Pitt find another seam on the baseline and Dixon gets an easy layup.
  • Scoop beats his man to the basket and misses a layup.  This is incredibly frustrating to watch.  When Scoop doesn't beat his man, he throws up an ugly runner.  When he does, he misses the layup.  He also commits a foul 80 feet away from the basket, but Pitt misses both free throws.  Johnson posts up once again, but his short turnaround rolls off the rim.  There is a lid on the basket for him tonight.  Jackson alertly gets a steal off the rebound and lays the ball in.
  • Off the in bounds pass, Ashton Gibbs is left wide open on the left wing and knocks down his sixth three-pointer of the game.  That is inexcusable for the Orange, the guy has been on fire all night.  Game over, I can't take it anymore.

SUMMARY: There aren't going to be many games in which Ashton Gibbs hits 67 percent of the three-pointers he shoots.  There also aren't going to be many games in which Brandon Triche and Andy Rautins combine to make one three-pointer on 11 attempts.  Unfortunately, both of those anomalies occurred in the same game.  As a result of that and a few other factors, Pittsburgh beat a superior Syracuse team by 10 points on their own floor.

The fact that Syracuse's entire starting front court got into foul trouble didn't help their cause.  I know a lot of Orange fans were very vocal about their displeasure with the officiating, but I think there were plenty of missed calls both ways.  As for the fouls that were called against the Orange big men, I felt they were warranted.  The only call that made me throw my hands up was the blocking foul on Joseph when Dixon ran him over in the second half.

Credit Pittsburgh with a halftime change in offensive philosophy.  Jamie Dixon's guards were settling for contested three-pointers in the first half without trying for something better. That all changed in the latter 20 minutes, as Pittsburgh started weaving the ball in-and-out and Gilbert Brown started finding open areas at the elbows as Dixon found some along the baseline. They also crashed the boards well, hauling down 12 offensive rebounds.

All told, I like Syracuse's chances should these teams meet again in the postseason.  Pittsburgh would have found themselves in a huge whole had their guards not hit a few lucky three's in the first half.  The Panthers also had trouble against the Syracuse defense when they put on a full-court press or a half-court trap.  Had the Orange not gotten into the bonus so early in the second half, things could have turned out a lot differently.