Pitt rebounds to demolish Syracuse

By Mike Gladysz

Pitt forward Sam Young entered Pitt’s game against Syracuse last night surrounded by talk about… Pitt forward Sam Young entered Pitt’s game against Syracuse last night surrounded by talk about a slump. The senior All-America candidate shot just 31 percent in his last three games and couldn’t find his touch from the outside. While his shooting struggles continued for Pitt in the first half, he showed that it wasn’t something he was willing to get used to. Young’s 22 points ‘- 19 of which came in the second half ‘- helped No. 4 Pitt avoid any late Syracuse surge and take down the Orange, 78-60. ‘Sam got back in rhythm today,’ said Pitt senior guard Levance Fields. ‘We kind of knew it would happen. We look for him to score.’ But it took Young some time to get going. Young went 1 for 4 from the floor and missed both of his 3-point attempts in the first half. However, at the start of the second period, he decided to move his game to the inside to help him heat up. Young went 6 for 8 in the second half and connected on both of his 3-point attempts. ‘A couple shots can change a lot of things,’ said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon about Young. ‘There are going to be game when guys don’t shoot as well as they have. You don’t want to overreact.’ Syracuse guard Andy Rautins did everything he could to keep his team in it. Rautins, a junior guard who missed last season with a knee injury, scored a team-high 17 points ‘- 15 of which came from 3-pointers. Entering the game with a 48 percent clip from outside in Big East play, he knocked down five of his 12 3-point attempts. ‘He had an excellent game,’ said Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair of Rautins. ‘[But] we did an excellent job playing defense.’ That defense, combined with Syracuse’s lack of consistent shooting, halted every run Syracuse had to cut into Pitt’s lead. Pitt (17-1, 5-1 Big East) led 31-28 at the half, but had 10 turnovers to only seven assists. The Panthers made sure that changed in the second half, committing only one turnover the rest of the way while adding an additional 11 assists. Fields had six of those assists and scored 15 points. He also helped to shut down Syracuse’s outside game. ‘[Pitt] finally got going offensively in the last part of the second half,’ said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. ‘We were probably in the game longer than we should have been.’ Much like what happened to Pitt during Saturday’s loss to Louisville, No. 8-ranked Syracuse was frustrated by foul trouble and struggled to hit key shots down the stretch. Pitt used physical play to limit the Orange, which averaged 81.5 points per game entering last night’s contest. ‘We’re still young a little bit,’ said Boeheim. ‘We just didn’t make enough shots when we had the opportunity.’ Dixon agreed and said that limiting a team like Syracuse to such low numbers is something Pitt can be proud of. ‘To come out and do what we did tonight really speaks volumes, especially on the defensive end,’ said Dixon. ‘[The players] were challenged about the rebounding numbers [against Louisville] and they responded.’ Blair was a constant force down low, grabbing 12 rebounds and scoring 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting. The sophomore recorded his 12th double-double of the year. But Blair said no matter how well he played, he and Pitt can’t enjoy the win for long. ‘After the game is over you just have to forget about it,’ said Blair. ‘In a couple hours we’re going to be worried about West Virginia.’ Pitt goes on the road to face the Mountaineers Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Backyard Brawl.