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Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair once again display late-game poise for No. 1 Syracuse (VIDEO)

Feb 12, 2014, 9:12 PM EDT

In the history of the Petersen Events Center, No. 25 Pittsburgh had never lost a game against a top five opponent. Nine games, nine wins for the Panthers. And on Wednesday night it looked as if Jamie Dixon’s Panthers would make it 10-0, with their mastery of the offensive glass being a big reason why they led No. 1 Syracuse for the majority of the game.

But as they’ve done all season long the top-ranked Orange, specifically senior forward C.J. Fair and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, made the big plays they needed to make in order to win. That tandem combined to score Syracuse’s final 13 points of the game, with Ennis making the biggest play of the season to date. That play: a three-pointer from about 35 feet out to give the Orange the 58-56 win, moving their record to 24-0 overall and 11-0 in the ACC.

(MORE: Is Pitt now a bubble team?)

As noted Syracuse has been down this road on multiple occasions this season and one reason why they continue to win tight games is the presence of Ennis, who is one of the nation’s most important players. Against Pittsburgh Ennis finished with 13 points and five assists, but the amazing stat is what the freshman did for the first time this season.

According to ESPN Stats Info, Ennis’ turnover with 3:14 remaining was the first that he’s committed in the final five minutes of a game this season. While many freshmen tend to experience seasons similar to a ride on a roller coaster, the smooth and seemingly never-rushed Ennis has been a model of consistency for the Orange this season. And given their lack of depth at the position, with Michael Gbinije seeing some spot duty at the position in order to give Ennis a break, Syracuse needed that to be the case.

In fact Ennis has been even better than advertised, and his combination of talent and poise has helped make Syracuse one of the favorites to win the national title.

But even with the last-second heroics, this wasn’t a one-man effort for Syracuse. Fair scored ten of his 14 points in the second half, Trevor Cooney added 11 points and both Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas added seven apiece for a team that played just six players against a deeper Pittsburgh squad. Syracuse scored just 58 points but they averaged 1.07 points per possession on the night, and when judging this team offensively it’s better to look at their efficiency as opposed to simply observing how many points they’ve scored.

Entering Wednesday, Syracuse ranked fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 18th in turnover percentage per kenpom.com. The Orange may not run, but they take full advantage of the possessions they do get. However in the aftermath of Thursday’s win there is an important area the Orange need to address, especially with reserve center Baye Moussa Keita sidelined with a sprained right knee.

That concern: rebounding. Pittsburgh managed to rebound 47.1% of its missed shots, outscoring Syracuse 15-3 in second chance points. Luckily for Syracuse their starting center, Chrismas, was able to stay on the floor after battling foul trouble on Sunday night against Clemson. That meant Syracuse didn’t have to use Jerami Grant in the middle of the 2-3 zone too often, and given the way Talib Zanna (seven offensive rebounds) hurt the Orange on the glass things could have been worse had that been the case.

However even with that concern the Orange found a way to win, with Fair and Ennis once again making the needed plays in crunch time. Some teams simply know how to finish out games, and by now it’s clear that Syracuse fits the bill.

  1. spillz121 - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    Cuse Baby!!!!

  2. djshnooks - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    NCAA player of the year…

    Tyler Ennis, a freshman.

    24-0…Cuse is in da house!!!

  3. 6superbowls - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Again Syracuse gets help in a close game. Call on Robinson at the end? Horrible. No call or charge was the right call, but these refs were shaky all night long, so it wasn’t surprising they’d be a factor. Cuse goes into the tourney undefeated, but loses in the third round.

  4. blastfurnaceknows - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    This was, by far, the luckiest win for the luckiest team so far this year. I guarantee that Syracuse will not even make the Elite 8. They simply aren’t good enough, despite my respect for their coach. This team should probably have 4 or 5 losses this year, with two of them being to the very team they got completely lucky to beat tonight. Enjoy it now, because the end will not be pretty.

    • radical82 - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      The ref’s did call this game loose but Syracuse was on the negative end of officiating more often than they were on the positive side.
      Syracuse is way better than last years final 4 team.
      blastfurnaceknows nothing about basketball, but of coarse that’s obvious.

  5. blastfurnaceknows - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    And yes, the officials played a big role tonight in this game with several obvious bad calls, particularly on loose balls that went out off bounds off Syracuse players, but miraculously got called otherwise. “Luck” like this doesn’t last forever. It will end soon and lead to an unexpected early tourney round end.

  6. lakerade - Feb 12, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    Scouting. I like Ennis. Great back and forth down the stretch.

  7. sdl65 - Feb 12, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Blast – Did you watch the game? Cuz the game the rest of us watched did not see ‘Cuse friendly refs.
    They’re 24-0 in case your wondering that’s pretty good and not an easy thing to do in Div1 today.
    The good teams find a way to win. Pitt is mediocre at best and will bow out early in the tourney as usual.
    Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement.

  8. apkyletexas - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    I’m a Pitt fan, but I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Ennis for making that shot.

    What can you do? The defenders drove him to a part of the court where he shouldn’t have had a chance in hell to make the shot. With no time left. And he makes it anyway. Crazy stuff.

  9. spillz121 - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    The refs didn’t make that shot, Ennis did…..if he misses it your point is mute.
    Shoulda, woulda, coulda……….

  10. musketmaniac - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    very weak acc

    • the1andonlydarling - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      Your an idiot. ACC will be the best conference when it’s all said and done

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