No. 5 Pitt defeated No. 3 Syracuse, 74-66, tonight in a showdown for first place in the Big East at the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt (18-1, 6-0) is alone in first place this morning after toppling the previously undefeated Orange. The Panthers won their first six Big East games for the first time in school history and prevented Syracuse (18-1) from tying a school record for consecutive victories to start a season.
The Panthers improved to 9-0 against top-5 teams at the Petersen Events Center and are 2-0 in such games this season. Tonight's game was the third in in the history of the building pitting two top-5 teams against one another. They defeated No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27.
A record crowd of 12,925 witnessed Pitt continue its mastery over Syracuse. Jamie Dixon beat Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim for the fifth consecutive time and for the 9th time in 11 career meetings. The five-game winning streak represents the longest for Pitt in the all-time series with Syracuse.
Pitt was led by junior power forward Nasir Robinson, who scored 21. Brad Wanamaker added 15, Gilbert Brown 12 and Ashton Gibbs 11.
The first half was one of the strangest of the college basketball season. Pitt scored the first 19 points of the game only to watch Syracuse come back and score the next 17 points.
The Panthers then scored the next seven points, but Syracuse answered once again, running off seven more to make it a two-point game before the Panthers scored five of the final eight of the half, the last three coming off the hands of Gibbs with three seconds left.
In the second half, Syracuse tied the score at 41-41 when James Southerland made a 3-pointer from the corner with 13:49 remaining, but it was a short-lived lead. Travon Woodall made a 3-pointer 16 seconds later, and Pitt would lead for the rest of the game.
The Orange had four opportunities to take the lead, but failed to score each time. James Southerland had a great chance to give Syracuse its first lead when he was in alone for an apparent layup, but Talib Zanna came out of nowhere to pin his shot against the backboard.
The big block ignited an 10-1 run that gave the Panthers a 53-44 lead with 10:49 remaining. The closest Syracuse could get after that was four points with 7:03 left, but Pitt scored the next eight points to put the game ot of reach.