Pittsburgh pulls away late for 72-61 win over Syracuse
PITTSBURGH (AP) Sheldon Jeter's orders are simple. Either the Pittsburgh forward plays with urgency or he doesn't play at all.
''Anytime I come in I want to bring energy,'' Jeter said. ''Anytime I don't, I'm coming out.''
Don't expect him to sit in a pressure situation for a while. Jeter scored seven of his 11 points during a decisive late run as the Panthers pulled away from Syracuse 72-61 on Wednesday night in the ACC opener for both schools.
Jeter sandwiched a pair of dunks around a traditional 3-point play as Pitt closed with a 14-2 surge to win its seventh straight. The junior added nine rebounds in 23 productive minutes.
''He's going to be a guy that's getting major minutes and one of those top four guys,'' coach Jamie Dixon said.
A welcome development for the Panthers (11-1), who put it all together over the final 5:32, holding Syracuse (10-4) without a field goal while getting whatever they wanted at the other end of the floor. Jamel Artis had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Pitt. Mike Young added 15 points and eight boards. The Panthers outrebounded Syracuse 43-25 and outscored the Orange 22-2 on second-chance points.
Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson had 15 points each for Syracuse, which fell to 4-3 under interim coach Mike Hopkins while Jim Boeheim serves a nine-game suspension as part of NCAA sanctions against the program.
''The last five minutes, they gave it to us,'' Hopkins said.
Syracuse went in front 59-58 on a pair of Cooney free throws but missed its final six shots while Pitt finally figured out the Orange's 2-3 zone and picked it apart.
''Down the stretch when we needed them, we seemed to attack the zone the way we wanted to,'' Dixon said. ''We got penetration, more layups, more inside-out (stuff).''
Chris Jones hit a putback to give the Panthers the lead for good with 3:26 to play. Jeter followed with a dunk then made a difficult layup in traffic and knocked down the free throw. Artis forced a turnover and fed Jeter for another slam that made it 67-59 and the Orange never threatened again.
''I felt really good for 35 minutes, I had heartburn the last five,'' Hopkins said. ''Sometimes the ball just doesn't go your way.''
The Panthers breezed through their nondescript nonconference schedule, the lone setback a home loss to Purdue on Dec. 1. The Orange provided a significant step up in class even if Syracuse spent most of December trying to find a rhythm without Boeheim. Three home wins against overmatched opponents gave the Orange some momentum, though Hopkins cautioned the Panthers would be a major test as both schools looked for an early hint on where they up stack up in a wide-open ACC.
Two sloppy and contentious hours provided little clarity.
Pitt led by as much as eight early despite point guard James Robinson dealing with foul trouble. Some typically poor foul shooting by the Orange didn't help. Yet Syracuse managed to tie it at 30 at the break by forcing the typically careful Panthers into eight turnovers.
The surge carried over into the second half and when Roberson sliced in for a layup, the Orange went up 43-35. Pitt responded behind Young and Artis, whose corner 3 was part of an 18-6 burst that allowed the Panthers to regain their footing before wearing Syracuse down late.
''We're back to normal, back to where we like to be,'' Dixon said. ''We have a lot of good players.''
Syracuse: The Orange fell to 2-10 all-time at the Petersen Events Center. ... The Orange made just 16 of 25 (60 percent) at the free-throw line. ... Center DaJuan Coleman had just two points and five rebounds while fouling out in 17 minutes. ... Syracuse made just 5 of 15 3-pointers, a season-low.
Pitt: Robinson finished with eight points and four assists in 26 minutes. ... The Panthers had 19 offensive rebounds. ... Pitt's bench outscored Syracuse's reserves 26-5. ... The Panthers shot 48 percent (13 of 27) in the second half after making just 11 of 32 shots (34 percent) in the opening 20 minutes.
Syracuse travels to No. 13 Miami on Saturday.
Pitt hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday.
AP College Basketball website: www.collegebasketball.ap.org