Orange seeking reversal vs. Pitt

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NEW YORK -- Pitt has dominated Syracuse like it has no other Big East Conference opponent in recent years. If the lopsided results bother coach Jim Boeheim, he doesn't outwardly show it. He merely shrugs it off and says it's a cyclical thing that happens in college basketball.

Syracuse players have a different outlook. Moments after Syracuse had knocked off Seton Hall, 75-63, Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, the players already were itching for a rematch against the Panthers, who won the only meeting between the teams in the regular season and 14 of the past 18.

"We know what they did the last game," Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams said. "They just bullied us completely. We're going to have to bring it. We'll have to be tough. It's going to be a war."

In Pitt's 65-55 victory Feb. 2 at Petersen Events Center, Pitt outrebounded Syracuse by 14 and held the Orange to 37 percent shooting. Pitt's ability to overwhelm Syracuse physically has been a familiar story in recent years.

But Carter-Williams and his teammates believe they will be better equipped to beat Pitt this time around because of the presence of senior forward James Southerland.

Southerland, Syracuse's top 3-point shooter, missed the Feb. 2 game because of an eligibility issue. He was 6 for 9 from 3-point range and scored 20 points Wednesday to lead the Orange past Seton Hall.

Southerland is shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range, but he hadn't been playing particularly well in recent weeks. He was 11 for 38 from behind the arc in the final five regular-season games. Syracuse dropped four of those games. He was 0 for 8 from the field in the regular-season finale at Georgetown, where the Orange registered a season-low 39 points.

"Pitt likes to play a lot of big strong guys," Syracuse junior C.J. Fair said. "With James spacing the floor I don't think they'll want to guard him that far away from the basket.

"It will be big. They have to pick their poison."

Syracuse was 3 for 14 from 3-point range in the game at Pitt.

"He's going to help a lot," sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas said. "We have someone to kick it out to and shoot 3s. We didn't have that the last time. We'll have a good 3-point offense this time."

Southerland might solve some of Syracuse's offensive issues against Pitt, but rebounding has been the biggest problem. Pitt has outrebounded Syracuse by 14 in each of the past three meetings and by an average of 11 in the past six. Even when Syracuse beat Pitt in 2012 at Syracuse, Pitt won on the rebounding battle, 38-24.

Syracuse hasn't outrebounded Pitt since Jan. 4, 2007.

But it didn't matter. Pitt won that game, too. Before Pitt fell at Syracuse last year the Orange's previous win in the series came in the 2006 Big East tournament championship.

"They've been beating us up a lot lately," Fair said. "We just have to come out and play strong, physical and play the way we did [Wednesday]. If we do that we'll be fine."

Against Seton Hall Wednesday, Syracuse shot 56 percent from the field and 9 for 15 from 3-point range. Brandon Triche was 6 for 9 and chipped in 17 points.

Fair added 16 points and Carter-Williams tied a Big East tournament record with 14 assists.

"Our offensive movement was the best it's probably been all year," Boeheim said. "We moved the ball really well. Mike played, I think, his best game of the year. For us to be effective, Mike has to make plays, and Brandon, C.J. and James have to score. That's what happened in this game."

Even though Pitt beat Syracuse by 10 six weeks ago, the Panthers did not play one of their best games. They turned the ball over 20 times and shot 3 for 15 from 3-point range against the zone.

The reason Pitt won was its rebounding and the ability to penetrate the zone for some easy inside baskets. The Panthers had 14 offensive rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field.

"They have physical guys who can take up space and rebound on the offensive and defensive glass," Fair said. "We played really good defense in the first game. Our offense wasn't clicking. I think [today] will be a different story."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @rayfitt1.


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