Even at 18-0, the Syracuse University men's basketball team knew it wasn't going through the season unblemished. Then it got two blemishes in a span of six days thanks to the work of the Big East's front-runners.
Having risen to no. 3 in the national rankings, the Orange ran into No. 5 Pittsburgh last Monday night at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers had won nine of its last 11 meetings with SU and 49 out of 50 games at home.
Without the services of leading scorer Kris Joseph (injured in the Jan. 15 win over Cincinnati), SU staged a tremendous comeback after trailing 19-0 in the first half - but could not the complete the miracle as the Panthers held off the short-handed Orange 74-66.
"We kept our composure and got right back into it," SU guard Scoop Jardine said. "If Ashton Gibbs does not make that three (just before halftime), we're down one. We were in it. Every time we were knocking at the door, we just couldn't get over the hump. We were right there."
Pitt's Nasir Robinson led all scorers posting 21 points and Brad Wanamaker added 15 points as it out-rebounded SU 35-25. SU freshman C.J. Fair came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points to go along with nine rebounds.
James Southerland, who replaced Joseph in the starting lineup, had eight points and registered four assists in a career-high 38 minutes. Rick Jackson delivered his 12th double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
It was an odd first half as Pitt crushed SU with that 19-0 start. Robinson scored the first nine points as he hammered SU's 2/3 zone while driving to the basket. Meanwhile, SU missing its first 10 shots and Jim Boeheim used two time-outs to try and stop it from getting worse.