The Pitt men’s basketball team seemed closer than ever to winning its first ACC game of the season after Wednesday’s close loss to NC State. The Panthers came into Saturday’s home game looking to amend the late-game mistakes that cost them their previous match.
Instead, Pitt (8-14 overall, 0-9 ACC) once again failed to make shots in the late minutes and fell to Syracuse (15-6 overall, 4-4 ACC), 60-55, for its ninth straight loss in the ACC.
“We got a lot of good opportunities,” junior guard/forward Jared Wilson-Frame said. “We just got in a shooting slump in the second half. Guys who usually make shots, myself included, just couldn’t hit tonight.”
The Panthers battled with the Orange for the majority of the contest, but made just two of their last fifteen shots from the field in what was one of their worst shooting performances of the season. Pitt shot 28 percent from the field and 26 percent from three as the team struggled against Syracuse’s notorious 2-3 zone.
The Panthers pounced on the Orange early, securing a 14-6 lead in the first seven minutes thanks to Wilson-Frame’s scorching start. Wilson-Frame accounted for 12 points during the run, going a perfect 5-5 from the field including 2-2 from three.
The hot shooting would not last as the Panthers immediately went on a lengthy scoring drought that lasted eight minutes. By the time first-year guard Khameron Davis finally scored with five minutes left in the first half, Syracuse had gone on a 14-3 run to secure a 20-17 lead.
Syracuse extended its lead to five points, but first-year point guard Marcus Carr knocked down a three as time expired in the first half. Carr’s three snapped a 0-17 three-point shooting drought to narrow Pitt’s deficit to just two points, 22-20, entering the half.
Of the Panthers’ 20 first-half points, Wilson-Frame led the team with 13, in addition to pacing the team in rebounds with five.
Carr and fellow first-year guard Parker Stewart picked up the scoring duties for the Panthers to begin the second half. The duo combined to score 14 points over the first 10 minutes of the third quarter.
The two teams traded baskets over those 10 minutes. An authoritative dunk by first-year Pitt center Terrell Brown tied the game up at 38-38 with nine minutes remaining.
Like Pitt’s previous game against NC State — in which the team allowed its opponent to end the game on a 15-2 run — the Panthers let the game slip away down the stretch. After pulling within four points, 47-43, with six minutes left, Pitt failed to make a field goal until Wilson-Frame drained a three with just 12 seconds remaining in the game.
Wilson-Frame’s basket made it 58-52, but Syracuse first-year guard Howard Washington hit two free throws to extend the lead to 60-52 on the ensuing possession. First-year Shamiel Stevenson knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired, but the Panthers fell nonetheless, 60-55, marking their ninth straight ACC loss.
Despite the loss, head coach Kevin Stallings tried to maintain confidence in his team.
“Our kids are getting better. They’re young, most of them in their first year,” Stallings said. “Hopefully we’ll knock the door down here soon.”
Although no individual Pitt player shot better than 33 percent from the field, both Wilson-Frame and Carr finished with some of their best box scores of the season. Wilson-Frame led the Panthers in points with 18, while also pulling down a season-high 13 rebounds to complete the double-double. Carr dished out a season-high 12 assists and scored 16 points for a double-double of his own.
Pitt’s next chance to snap its losing streak comes at Miami this Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.