Pitt's Michael Young pulls down a rebound against Syracuse in the second half at the Carrier Dome. (Matt Freed / McClatchy)
Syracuse, N.Y. — Put this in the scouting report on Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis: He can score, too.
Ennis, the freshman point guard who would rather pass than shoot, scored 16 points, including two driving layups and two free throws in the final 2 minutes, and the second-ranked Orange rallied past No. 22 Pittsburgh 59-54 on Saturday in a battle for first place in the ACC between the two former Big East rivals.
Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell behind 52-49 with 4:31 to go on two free throws by Lamar Patterson, who had rallied the Panthers from a 10-point deficit.
Ennis hit a scooping layup to give Syracuse a 53-52 lead with 1:47 left and the Orange held it to the end.
“I pretty much had to make a play,” said Ennis, who had three assists with one turnover. “I think they broke down defensively. They don’t usually do that too often. I didn’t even get to the basket all the way the whole game. Luckily, I did at the end.”
In a seesaw game that was tight all the way, Ennis took advantage again of his driving ability after Patterson and Cameron Wright missed 3-pointers on the same possession with just over a minute to go. Encouraged by coach Jim Boeheim to take more shots, Ennis hit a lefty layup with 30.6 seconds to go as the crowd of 30,046 shook the Carrier Dome with deafening roars.
“He made some of the best plays that I’ve seen in a long time,” Boeheim said. “You don’t get to the basket against Pittsburgh for two layups. He won the game for us down the stretch. We opened it up and we like to give him the opportunity in those situations. We were trying to give him an opportunity so he could get to the basket, and he has a knack for doing it that’s just about as good as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Syracuse entered the game 2-0 against former Big East rivals, with victories over St. John’s and Villanova. The Orange made it three straight and remained one of only three unbeatens in Division I.
“That’s what it comes down to — finishing and stopping them,” said Patterson, who missed what would have been a tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds left. “We win the game if we do.”
In four of the past five seasons, Syracuse has started with at least 13 consecutive wins, and twice in the last four years Pitt (16-2, 4-1) had stopped those streaks.
Pitt shot 38.3 percent (18 of 47) and Syracuse finished at 51.2 percent (21 of 41) in a very efficient game offensively. The Panthers dominated the offensive glass 16-4, outscoring the Orange 19-2 on second-chance points, but they missed a lot of chances underneath and paid for it in the end.
“We got a couple of good shots,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We just didn’t make them. We need to finish better around the basket. They’re good, but we felt we should have won the game.”
C.J. Fair had 13 points, Jerami Grant added 12 and Rakeem Christmas 10 for Syracuse.
James Robinson, who leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, had six points, four assists and one turnover for Pitt and Talib Zanna finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
In an 81-74 victory at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, Pitt won by dominating the glass 38-18. It was the Panthers’ closest victory of the season, the first 15 coming by an average of 17.8 points.
Syracuse, accustomed to close games all season, led by four at halftime and quickly extended it early in the second half.
Grant’s one-handed floater in the lane capped a 7-0 spurt and a 3-pointer by Ennis from the left wing gave Syracuse a 37-27 lead with 14:27 left.
Pitt erased most of that in a hurry as Patterson drained three 3-pointers in a 65-second span to narrow the lead to 39-36. He hit two from the wing and on the third he was wide open from the top of the key as Boeheim fumed on the bench.
The Panthers entered the game leading the ACC with a 48.8 field goal shooting percentage but found little room to roam inside the Syracuse zone. Pitt shot 37 percent (9 of 25) and hit just 1 of 7 3-pointers in the first half.
It was Pitt’s second game without sixth man Durand Johnson, who sustained a season-ending injury to his right knee in last Saturday’s victory over Wake Forest. The sophomore forward was blossoming as the first man off the bench, averaging 8.8 points and ranking second on the team with 22 3-pointers.
In 2009-10, Syracuse won its first 13 games, then lost 82-72 to unranked Pitt in the Carrier Dome. The next season Syracuse won its first 18 games before the Panthers stopped that streak with a 74-66 win in Pittsburgh. Under Dixon, Pitt entered the game 10-4 against Syracuse, 5-1 in the Carrier Dome.
(At) No. 5 Wichita State 68, Indiana State 48: Ron Baker scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet added 15 and Wichita State remained unbeaten. Darius Carter and Chadrack Lufile both scored 10 points inside for the Shockers (19-0, 6-0 Missouri Valley), which extended school records for winning streak and best start to a season.
Dawon Cummings scored 19 points for Indiana State (14-4, 5-1). He was 7 of 14 from the field while the rest of the team was 9 of 37 (24.3 percent).
(At) No. 6 Villanova 88, DePaul 62: James Bell had 17 points and eight rebounds, Ryan Arcidiacono scored 14 points, and Villanova won its fifth straight. The Wildcats (16-1, 5-0 Big East) made a whopping 19 of 26 shots (73 percent) in the second half as they continue to steamroll through the revamped conference. Villanova tied a season low with five turnovers.
Daniel Ochefu had 14 points and six rebounds, and Josh Hart hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 points for the Wildcats.
The Blue Demons (10-9, 2-4) entered on a rare two-game conference winning streak, but failed to get three straight for the first time since 2006-07. Brandon Young led them with 13 points.
No. 7 Florida 68, (at) Auburn 61: Casey Prather scored 21 points in his return from a knee injury and helped Florida survive a scare. Prather had 16 points in the first half after missing the past two games with a badly bruised right knee. He made 8 of 10 shots for the Gators (15-2, 4-0 Southeastern Conference), who have won nine straight and eight in a row at Auburn (8-7, 0-4).
(At) Texas 86, No. 8 Iowa State 76: Jonathan Holmes scored 23 points and Cam Ridley had 16 points and 11 rebounds, sending the Cyclones to their third consecutive loss. The Longhorns (14-4, 3-2) got their biggest win of the season with their third in the row in the Big 12.
Javan Felix scored 17 for Texas, including a big 3-pointer in the momentum-changing run in the second half.
Georges Niang scored 18 to lead Iowa State, which started the season 14-0. The Cyclones (14-3, 2-3) hadn’t lost three in a row since the 2010-2011 season and haven’t won in Austin since 2005.
(At) No. 15 Kansas 80, No. 9 Oklahoma State 78: Naadir Tharpe scored 21 points for Kansas, and Frank Mason stripped Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash as the final buzzer sounded to preserve the victory. Joel Embiid added 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks for the Jayhawks (13-4, 4-0 Big 12), who blew most of a 47-30 halftime lead before holding on at the finish.
Phil Forte hit seven 3-pointers and had 21 points for Oklahoma State (15-3, 3-2).
(At) San Diego State 63, UNLV 52: Xavier Thames scored 18 points for San Diego State, which used a 19-2 first-half run toward its 15th straight victory. Josh Davis added 14 points and 14 rebounds for SDSU (16-1, 5-0 Mountain West), which hasn’t lost since its second game, a 69-60 home defeat against Arizona, which is now ranked No. 1.
Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points, Deville Smith had 13 and Roscoe Smith 11 for UNLV (11-7, 2-3) which had won eight of its previous 10 games.
No. 25 Oklahoma 66, (at) No. 12 Baylor 64: Buddy Hield scored all 19 of his points after halftime and Oklahoma stormed from behind with a big run. The Sooners (14-4, 3-2 Big 12) were down by eight right after halftime before reeling off 16 consecutive points. Baylor regained the lead on a putback by Cory Jefferson with 9:13 left, and the lead changed hands three more times and there were three ties before Heild’s 3-pointer with 4 minutes left made it 58-57. That put the Sooners ahead to stay.
Baylor (13-4, 1-3) had won 13 straight home games, and their only non-conference loss was to No. 2 Syracuse. The Bears next play at No. 15 Kansas on Monday night.
(At) No. 13 Kentucky 74, Tennessee 66: Freshman Andrew Harrison scored a season-high 26 points and Kentucky used near-perfect free throw shooting to pull away. The Wildcats (13-4, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) made 23 of 24 from the line including their first 17 before Aaron Harrison, Andrew’s twin, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 32 seconds remaining.
Andrew Harrison made all 10 of his free throw attempts along with a couple of 3-pointers and freshman Julius Randle was 5 of 5 from the free throw line and 6 of 9 from the field for 18 points.
Kentucky overcame a nine-point first-half deficit to beat the Volunteers (11-6, 2-2). Trailing 18-9 with 12:16 left in the half, the Wildcats closed with a 25-14 run over the final 11:06 and led by as many as 11 points in the second half.
No. 16 UMass 84, Elon 74: Cady Lalanne scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and Chaz Williams scored all 20 of his in the second half as Massachusetts held off several Elon rallies. The Minutemen (16-1) won their sixth in a row, this time spoiling the occasion as the first nationally ranked visitor to play on Elon’s campus.
Maxie Esho finished with 17 points for the Minutemen, who won a non-conference matchup between the teams for the third season in a row. Williams provided 14 of his points in the last seven minutes.
Lucas Troutman scored 19 points and Sebastian Koch had 18 points for Elon (10-9), which had its three-game winning streak end. Tanner Samson added 14 points.
(At) No. 17 Memphis 101, LeMoyne-Owen 78: Nick King scored 18 points. The win was a needed relief for the Tigers (13-4), who had dropped two consecutive home games.
Meanwhile, LeMoyne-Owen (4-10), a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, lost its third straight and fifth in the last six.
No. 18 Louisville 76, (at) UConn 64: Russ Smith scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, and Montrezl Harrell added 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Cardinals (16-3, 5-1 American) who won for the fifth time in six games.
Shabazz Napier had a career high 30 points to lead Connecticut (14-4, 2-3), which was coming off a win Thursday at No. 17 Memphis.
No. 19 Cincinnati 61, (at) South Florida 54: Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 points, and Shaquille Thomas added 10 points for the Bearcats (17-2, 6-0 AAC), who have won 10 straight.
South Florida (10-8, 1-4) got 15 points from Javontae Hawkins. Bulls point guard Anthony Collins missed his eighth game in a row due to left knee soreness.
(At) Providence 81, No. 20 Creighton 68: Bryce Cotton scored 23 points and LaDontae Henton added 19. The victory is the third straight Big East victory for the Friars (13-5, 3-2). They defeated a nationally ranked team for the first time since defeating No. 21 Notre Dame on Feb. 16, 2013.
Doug McDermott led the Bluejays (15-3, 5-1) with 21 points and seven rebounds. The only other Creighton player in double figures was Devin Brooks, who had 10 points.
(At) No. 21 Colorado 83, USC 62: Josh Scott scored 20 points, Askia Booker had 13, and Colorado, shaken by the loss of star guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury, rebounded from its first home defeat. Xavier Johnson and Jaron Hopkins had 10 points each for Colorado (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12), which sent Southern Cal (9-9, 0-5) to its season-high fifth consecutive loss. It is the worst start in conference play for the Trojans since they opened the 2012 season with an eight-game skid.
(At) No. 23 Duke 95, North Carolina State 60: Jabari Parker scored 23 points and Duke scored 33 points off turnovers. Rasheed Sulaimon added 13 points for the Blue Devils (14-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led by 13 at halftime and by 37 afterward to keep the Wolfpack winless at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995.
Duke shot 50 percent and went 11 for 24 from 3-point range.
T.J. Warren scored 23 points to lead N.C. State (11-7, 1-4), which shot 48 percent but committed 21 turnovers to undermine any chance at building momentum.
(At) No. 24 Saint Louis 70, Fordham 48: Dwayne Evans had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Jordair Jett lacked a rebound that would have given him his first career double-double. Saint Louis (17-2, 4-0 Atlantic 10) has won 11 straight. The Billikens held Fordham (7-10, 0-4) to season lows for first half and game scoring on 29 percent shooting.
(At) Utah 74, No. 25 UCLA 69: Jordan Loveridge scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead a balanced attack as Utah held off a late rally. Delon Wright, Brandon Taylor and Kenneth Ogbe each scored 12 points to help the Utes (14-4, 3-3 Pac-12) earn their first victory over the Bruins since the 1983 NCAA tournament.
Kyle Anderson had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for UCLA, and Zach LaVine added 15 off the bench for the Bruins. UCLA (14-4, 3-2) stormed back from a 17-point deficit to get within two in the final minute, but could not overcome a costly turnover by Anderson in the final seconds.