Pittsburgh Pittsburgh went through more than half a season without losing, then faced the realistic possibility of losing twice in three days.
The Panthers didn’t let it happen, making sure everything that went wrong in its first loss — the lack of rebounding, the poor down-the-stetch shooting — wasn’t repeated.
Sam Young pulled out of a three-game slump by scoring 19 of his 22 points in the second half and No. 4 Pittsburgh surged shortly after halftime to defeat No. 8 Syracuse, 78-60, on Monday night.
“The big thing in this league (the Big East) is not turning one (loss) into two,” point guard Levance Fields said.
DeJuan Blair, also coming off a poor game during a 69-63 loss at Louisville on Saturday night that ended Pitt’s two-week stay at No. 1, was strong inside with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Blair’s toughness keyed a rugged and at times intimidating defense. The Panthers outrebounded the Orange, 40-28, and held them nearly 22 points below their scoring average.
Several Syracuse players were seen complaining to the officials that Pitt (17-1, 5-1) was being too physical, and the Orange (17-3, 5-2) drew two technical fouls less than three minutes apart during the first half.
Young, Pitt’s leading scorer with an 18.7 average, made seven of 12 shots after going only 15-of-49 in his previous three games. Pitt missed 15 of its final 16 shots while losing a 10-point lead at now-No. 9 Louisville.
“But as soon as we got on the airplane, we forgot about it,” Blair said. “Sometimes you’re going to come up short.”