Orange set school record with 20 straight wins

Syracuse defeated Pittsburgh for the first time since 2006

No. 1 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0) opened up with a 13-0 run and never looked back as they defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers (11-8, 0-6) Monday night in the Carrier Dome, 71-63. With the win, Syracuse set the mark for its best start in school history.

That wasn’t the only record set Monday night, as coach Jim Boeheim won his 876th game to tie legendary coach Adolph Rupp for the fourth most wins by a NCAA Division I coach.

Photo: Keegan Barber
Junior guard Brandon Triche goes for 2 of his 12 points on a fast break layup.

“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Pitt in a while and we got coach’s win to put him up in the ranks,” senior forward Kris Joseph said. “It was a great night for us.”

From the opening whistle, it looked as though Syracuse was going to run Pittsburgh out of the building with their fast-pace game play. The Orange opened up the game with 13 unanswered points. Joseph began the run with SU’s first four points, sophomore center Fab Melo added four more, and then senior guard Scoop Jardine finished the run with a three-pointer. Pittsburgh finally responded with its first basket of the night at the 15:50 mark.

“We got points in transition and we were attacking the basket,” Joseph said. “Our defense was getting stops and we were pushing the ball down and getting easy baskets on the other end. That’s what makes this team kind of special.”

The Orange never trailed for the entire game, but as soon as they began to slow down their game, the Panthers began to slowly come back with a few small runs of their own. After a Brandon Triche jumper put the Orange up 15-2 with 11 minutes to go in the first half, an 11-4 Pittsburgh run brought the Panthers within four points of the lead. That’s when the Syracuse bench stepped in and began pouring on the points.

Sophomores C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters gave SU a comfortable 8-point lead with six minutes remaining in the half. After the Panthers responded with an easy lay-up by J.J. Moore, Fair had arguably the highlight of the night with his emphatic dunk in the face of Pittsburgh defender Talib Zanna. Not only did Fair make the basket, but he was also fouled on the way up and hit the ensuing free throw to convert the 3-point play.

“It was good play because throughout the whole season, Scoop and the other guys have been giving me a hard time, saying I lost my leaping ability,” Fair said. “So it was a good play to show them I still got it.”

That brought the lead back up to 9, and after some back and forth shooting by both teams; the Orange went into halftime still up 9 points at 35-26. Despite a dominant offensive performance in the paint, the Orange were shooting horribly from outside and were being outrebounded 22-14 going into halftime.  

The second half was more of the same for the Orange, who opened up with an 11-6 run. After Ashton Gibbs hit a nice 3-pointer, Melo made a lay-up and a Jardine steal led to a quick Triche basket to put the Orange up 39-29 with 18:34 remaining in the game.

Even though they were down by 10, the Panthers never gave up. With ten minutes left in the game, the Panthers drew to within 6 points, but were then silenced by a Waiters 3-pointer.

The Panthers would respond again when Zanna cut the lead to four points with less than 9 minutes to go, but the Orange never backed down. Joseph and Waiters converted back-to-back 3-pointers, ending all hopes of a Pittsburgh comeback and extending the SU lead back up to 10 points.

“We knew Pitt was going to come back,” Waiters said. “If you take their record away, they’re not a bad team. We knew that, and we just had to be ready.”

While Syracuse knew that the game was in their hands at that point, Pittsburgh would not go home without a fight, continually forcing Syracuse to the free throw line and making shots in an attempt to mount a comeback. However, it was better defense and better rebounding by the Orange that eventually ended the game.

“We knew it would be a physical game,” Melo said. “But we just had to play strong.”

Before Monday night’s victory, no current Syracuse player had beaten Pittsburgh during his basketball career.

“It feels good,” Joseph said. “That’s definitely something I told myself I wanted to do before I left Syracuse.”

Waiters led the Orange in scoring Monday night with 16 points, but it was the play of Jardine that had coach Boeheim talking after the game.

“He is the leader of this team. He is the only vocal leader,” Boeheim said. “He is a guy who will make plays and is not afraid to make plays—good plays. When he shoots the ball well he is one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best point guard in the league.”

Jardine finished the night with 12 points, 10 assists and 2 steals.

Fab Melo also had a great night with a double-double. The 7-foot center had 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and also blocked 6 shots. Joseph and Triche finished the night with 12 points, while Fair finished with 7 and grabbed 5 boards.

Syracuse has a five-day break before traveling to play Notre Dame on Saturday Jan. 21.

Syracuse Basketball Photos

Great photographs of the Basketball Game!!

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