PITTSBURGH (AP) — Elijah Hughes scored 25 points, Joe Girard III added 16 and Bourama Sibide chipped in 13 points and 10 rebounds as Syracuse smothered Pittsburgh 72-49 on Wednesday night despite losing Buddy Boeheim to a left ankle injury in the first half.
The Orange (16-12, 9-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second straight following a three-game slide by forcing the reeling Panthers (15-14, 6-12) into 17 turnovers and limiting Pitt to just 29% shooting (16 of 55) from the field. Justin Champagnie led Pitt with 13 points and 17 rebounds but couldn’t stop the Panthers from dropping their fifth consecutive game.
Syracuse has picked itself up after getting rolled by No. 11 Louisville in a 24-point blowout last week. The Orange survived a scare at home from Georgia Tech over the weekend and followed it up by again suffocating the relatively undersized Panthers with their trademark 2-3 zone defense. Syracuse rode Boeheim early then held on in the second half for a 69-61 win on Jan. 25.
Boeheim wasn’t nearly as effective in the rematch, going scoreless in 15 minutes before leaving after tweaking his left ankle while getting called for an offensive foul. The Orange led just 24-19 as Boeheim gingerly made his way to the bench. Yet rather than founder with its best outside shooter on the bench, Syracuse hit the gas. Pitt went without a field goal over the final 5:55 of the first half as the Orange used a 13-2 burst to take a 37-21 lead.
Hughes got wherever he wanted whenever he wanted against Pitt’s defense. The Panthers put together a small surge at the beginning of the second half, getting within 11 at one point but the momentum didn’t last. Pitt looked indecisive against the Orange’s zone and either settled for 3-pointers it couldn’t make — the Panthers shot just 6 of 26 from 3 — or unsuccessfully tried to get to the rim.
When Girard III knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, it gave Syracuse a 57-32 advantage. Pitt coach Jeff Capel sent in senior Anthony Starzynski — a walk-on — looking for a spark that never arrived.
Syracuse: The Orange probably need to win their final three regular season games and then make some serious noise in the ACC tournament to have any shot at the NCAAs, but winning so easily with Boeheim a non-factor showcased the kind of depth they didn’t have earlier in the year.
Pitt: Capel is still very much in the building phase two years after taking over a team that went winless in conference play the season before he arrived. Of the four players who said goodbye during Senior Night only one — graduate transfer center Eric Hamilton — played significant minutes. The Panthers are still very young, but they also have looked run down of late, similar to last season when they dropped 13 straight conference games.
Syracuse: Host North Carolina on Saturday.
Pitt: Finish up the regular season with a two-game road trip beginning on Saturday at North Carolina State.