Sidibe scores 18 off the bench, Syracuse tops Pitt 60-55
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bourama Sidibe’s aching left knee finally appears to be coming around. Syracuse’s weird season may follow suit.
The freshman forward came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points to go with 16 rebounds in 31 energetic minutes as the Orange pulled away from Pittsburgh late in a 60-55 victory. Limited to just 35 minutes total during Syracuse’s first seven Atlantic Coast Conference games, Sidibe looked healthy at both ends of the floor as Syracuse (15-6, 4-4 ACC) won its third straight.
“He was spectacular I thought,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought he had like 12 (points) and 12 (rebounds) or something, or 12 and 10. Good thing I didn’t take him out.”
Sidibe’s play didn’t allow it. While the starting frontcourt of Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu combined to shoot just 6 of 26, Sidibe made 6 of 8 shots, most of them layups around the basket after finding open space in Pitt’s 2-3 zone.
“I just see opportunity and go and play,” Sidibe said. “Last game I wanted to play and I didn’t play. (Boeheim) was kind of telling me I’m not ready, my knee is not ready. I just go today and play and show him my knee is fine and I can play.”
Sidibe came in averaging just 2.8 points per game on the season and had scored 16 points total since Thanksgiving. He topped that total in the span of two hours as the Orange beat the Panthers for the second time in 11 days.
Tyus Battle chipped in 14 points for Syracuse, which held Pitt to 28 percent shooting (18 of 65) and never trailed after using a 12-3 surge to break a 40-40 tie. Brissett started the run with a tip-in and a 3-pointer, Sidibe hit a layup, Battle knocked down a 3-pointer of his own and when Sidibe made a layup, the Orange led 52-43 with 2:35 left.
“It felt ugly, the whole game,” Syracuse guard Frank Howard said. “The second half felt ugly to me as well, but at that point we just wanted to grind it out and focus on the next play and we hit some big shots on their court”
Marcus Carr led Pitt (8-14, 0-9) with 16 points and 12 assists and Jarod Wilson-Frame added 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds but the Panthers dropped their ninth straight. Three days after a near miss against North Carolina State, the Panthers hung around for more than 30 minutes but couldn’t seem to figure out Syracuse’s 2-3 zone with any consistency. Pitt endured a stretch of 8:55 in the first half without a bucket and missed 12 straight shots in the second half to give the Orange time to take control.
“We know there’s going to be growing pains for a new team like ourselves,” Wilson-Frame said. “The last two games, we had ’em right in our hands, an opportunity to win. Couple mistakes here and there, a couple of missed shots.”
Syracuse won the first meeting on Jan. 16, an occasionally brutal 59-45 victory in which the Panthers could do little against the Orange’s zone defense save for freshman guard Parker Stewart, who poured in 23 points. Stewart was held to just six points in the rematch on 2 of 9 shooting.
Sidibe’s shot to get on the floor for extended minutes came at the expense of Chukwu. The 7-foot-2 junior finished with two points and six rebounds in 17 minutes and spent much of the second half watching Sidibe.
“Didn’t anticipate (Sidibe) playing that much but Paschal wasn’t involved in the game at all,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse: The Orange can’t afford to give away any games if they want to have any shot of reaching the NCAA tournament. They flirted with it for the better part of 30 minutes before pulling away, though the upcoming schedule does them few favors with No. 2 Virginia, No. 4 Duke, No. 10 North Carolina and No. 18 Clemson still on the schedule.
Pitt: The Panthers remain emotionally engaged even as the losses pile up. Still, they’re halfway to going winless in the ACC with three straight road games against ranked teams in the offing. Pitt’s next legitimate shot at picking up its first ACC victory may not come until Feb. 13 against Boston College.
Syracuse: Travels to Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
Pitt: Begins three-game road trip at Miami on Wednesday. The Hurricanes beat the Panthers 67-53 on Dec. 30.