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CBB: No. 2 Syracuse holds off No. 22 Pitt in ACC clash

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The Canadian Press
1/18/2014 7:59:50 PM
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Put this in the scouting report on Syracuse's Tyler Ennis: He can score, too.

Ennis, the freshman point guard who would rather pass than shoot, scored 16 points, including two driving layups and two free throws in the final 2 minutes, and the second-ranked Orange rallied past No. 22 Pittsburgh 59-54 on Saturday in a battle for first place in the ACC between the two former Big East rivals.

Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell behind 52-49 with 4:31 to go on two free throws by Lamar Patterson, who had rallied the Panthers from a 10-point deficit.

Ennis hit a scooping layup to give Syracuse a 53-52 lead with 1:47 left and the Orange held it to the end.

"I pretty much had to make a play," said Ennis, who had three assists with one turnover. "I think they broke down defensively. They don't usually do that too often. I didn't even get to the basket all the way the whole game. Luckily, I did at the end."

Twice.

In a seesaw game that was tight all the way, Ennis took advantage again of his driving ability after Patterson and Cameron Wright missed 3-pointers on the same possession with just over a minute to go. Encouraged by coach Jim Boeheim to take more shots, Ennis hit a lefty layup with 30.6 seconds to go as the crowd of 30,046 shook the Carrier Dome with deafening roars.

"He made some of the best plays that I've seen in a long time," Boeheim said. "You don't get to the basket against Pittsburgh for two layups. He won the game for us down the stretch. We opened it up and we like to give him the opportunity in those situations. We were trying to give him an opportunity so he could get to the basket, and he has a knack for doing it that's just about as good as anybody I've ever seen."

Syracuse entered the game 2-0 against former Big East rivals, with victories over St. John's and Villanova. The Orange made it three straight and remained one of only three unbeatens in Division I.

"That's what it comes down to -- finishing and stopping them," said Patterson, who missed what would have been a game-tying 3 with 5 seconds left. "We win the game if we do."

In four of the past five seasons, Syracuse has started with at least 13 consecutive wins, and twice in the last four years Pitt (16-2, 4-1) had stopped those streaks.

Pitt shot 38.3 per cent (18 of 47) and Syracuse finished at 51.2 per cent (21 of 41) in a very efficient game offensively. The Panthers dominated the offensive glass 16-4, outscoring the Orange 19-2 on second-chance points, but they missed a lot of chances underneath and paid for it in the end.

"We got a couple of good shots," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We just didn't make them. We need to finish better around the basket. They're good, but we felt we should have won the game."

C.J. Fair had 13 points, Jerami Grant added 12 and Rakeem Christmas 10 for Syracuse.

James Robinson, who leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, had six points, four assists and one turnover for Pitt and Talib Zanna finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

In an 81-74 victory at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, Pitt won by dominating the glass 38-18. It was the Panthers' closest victory of the season, the first 15 coming by an average of 17.8 points.

Syracuse, accustomed to close games all season, led by four at halftime and quickly extended it early in the second half.

Grant's one-handed floater in the lane capped a 7-0 spurt and a 3 by Ennis from the left wing gave Syracuse a 37-27 lead with 14:27 left.

Pitt erased most of that in a hurry as Patterson drained three 3-pointers in a 65-second span to narrow the lead to 39-36. He hit two from the wing and on the third he was wide open from the top of the key as Boeheim fumed on the bench.

The Panthers entered the game leading the ACC with a 48.8 field goal shooting percentage but found little room to roam inside the Syracuse zone. Pitt shot 37 per cent (9 of 25) and hit just 1 of 7 3-pointers in the first half.

It was Pitt's second game without sixth man Durand Johnson, who sustained a season-ending injury to his right knee in last Saturday's victory over Wake Forest. The sophomore forward was blossoming as the first man off the bench, averaging 8.8 points and ranking second on the team with 22 3-pointers.

In 2009-10, Syracuse won its first 13 games, then lost 82-72 to unranked Pitt in the Carrier Dome. The next season Syracuse won its first 18 games before the Panthers stopped that streak with a 74-66 win in Pittsburgh. Under Dixon, Pitt entered the game 10-4 against Syracuse, 5-1 in the Carrier Dome.

Tyler Ennis (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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