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Pitt notebook: Free-throw woes Panthers' problem

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Lamar Patterson (21) and Talib Zanna walk back to the bench after Syracuse's Tyler Ennis put the Orange in the lead late in the second half Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With a three-point lead and 4.8 seconds remaining, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim instructed his Orange to foul Pitt on the inbounds.

“We've seen too many guys make shots in that situation,” Boeheim said. “I think that fouling is the best way. I hesitate a little bit because we're not a good rebounding team but, fortunately, he missed and we got it back.”

Here's another rationale: Why give the Panthers a chance to tie the game from beyond the arc when they couldn't win it at the free-throw line?

No. 22 Pitt made only 13 of 23 free throws in its 59-54 loss to No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday at Carrier Dome. Syracuse was 13 of 18 (72.2).

“It hurt us today,” Pitt senior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “It came down to it at the end.”

The 56.5 free-throw percentage was Pitt's second worst of the season, behind the game versus Albany (56.3).

The Panthers came into the game shooting 73.2 percent from the free-throw line. Perhaps redshirt freshman Chris Jones was most symbolic, a 93.2 percent shooter going 1 for 4.

“That's tough,” Pitt point guard James Robinson said. “We've been a pretty good free-throw shooting team. I hate to come here and let that be one of the factors that play into us losing, but there were other aspects of the game that we didn't execute or do as well as we should have.

“When you start letting all of those different categories add up — and not in your favor — that's when you tend to lose.”

Spoiler alert

Pitt came just short of snapping a Syracuse perfect season for the third time in five seasons.

The Orange were 13-0 before an 82-72 loss to the unranked Panthers Jan. 2, 2010, at Carrier Dome, and 18-0 and ranked No. 3 before a 74-66 loss to No. 5 Pitt on Jan. 17, 2011, at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt also had won six of eight against Syracuse at Carrier Dome, including a streak of five consecutive from January 2004 to January 2012.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is 10-5 against Syracuse, including 5-2 at the Dome.

Ready to rebound

In an unusual twist, Pitt dominated the boards but lost the game.

The Panthers finished with a plus-12 rebounding edge over Syracuse, including 16-4 on the offensive end. But Syracuse made 21 of 41 shots, including 32 points in the paint to Pitt's 24.

“Offensively, we played as well as we could play. You don't shoot 50 percent against Pittsburgh. Not many teams do,” Boeheim said. “Unfortunately, we stopped rebounding. This is the first game this year where the boards really would have been the determining factor in the game if it wasn't for Tyler (Ennis) making the plays he made down the stretch.”

Talib Zanna led all rebounders with 11, including four offensive. It was the 12th career double-double and sixth of the season for Zanna, who made 4 of 8 shots from the field and 4 of 6 free throws for 12 points.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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