Pittsburgh has had its problems on offense and swingman Lamar Patterson was the face of it as he struggled in the Panthers’ last two games. Well, at least for one night, Patterson found some of the offense he had earlier this season in a 59-55 overtime victory over Miami in Coral Gables on Wednesday.
Patterson drove for a tie-breaking layup late in regulation, knocked down an important three-pointer, punched in free throws and came up with a last-second steal during the extra session. Patterson also scored nine straight points for Pittsburgh during the last moments of the first half and in the beginning of the second half. He finished with 25 points on 6-of-14 shooting. However, the offense still struggled like it had in its losses this season and without Patterson’s late-game heroics, Pittsburgh could have suffered a third straight loss. The Panthers only shot 33 percent from the field against Miami.
This woeful offensive game was just more of the same for coach Jamie Dixon‘s Panthers, as the team lost two games last week shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and averaging only 55 points. Pittsburgh had been one of the steadiest offensive teams in the country for the entire non-conference season and the first part of the ACC season, with one exception in its loss to Cincinnati. The Panthers only scored 43 points on 31 percent shooting.
Obviously, any team will take a victory over anything else, but what is disconcerting about this recent stretch is how consistently inconsistent the Pittsburgh offense is. Duke was able to get after the Panthers with quick guards and great work on the boards. Virginia used its slow pace to frustrate the Panthers and Miami went to a zone. What comes down to all of this is if a team slows the pace, Pittsburgh becomes lost and forces bad shots. Those bad shots do not allow for offensive rebounding position and the Panthers are left with little chance to score. The Panthers try to speed up the game as much as they can, but it does not always work.
The Panthers cannot completely rely on Patterson to carry them in every single game. Despite the outcome Wednesday, the offense is still a work in progress.
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The Syracuse Orange probably should have blown the Miami Hurricanes out of the building on Saturday. The Orange were clicking on all cylinders at the start of the game and led by as many as 18 points. But after building that substantial lead, the Orange took their foot off the gas and appeared to get bored with their opponent, which has happened on several occasions this season.
Syracuse was essentially sleepwalking through the latter stages of the first-half and the early portion of the second-half. The Orange got lazy on defense which allowed the Hurricanes to hit outside shots and climb back into the game. But Miami deserves a great deal of credit for continuing to fight after the second-ranked Orange opened up a sizable lead early in the game.
Miami actually came all the way back and took a lead in the second-half. But just as Syracuse has done all season — when they wanted needed to at least — they flipped a switch and put forth the effort necessary to take control of the game. Senior C.J. Fair and freshman Tyler Ennis both made winning plays down the stretch while Trevor Cooney hit a timely three-point shot to seal victory for the Orange.
Despite sleepwalking throughout nearly half the game, Syracuse won by a comfortable margin after dominating the early and late portions of the game. The Orange also dominated Miami on the boards all game long which was an issue for Syracuse in their close win against Pittsburgh last week. By rebounding at a high rate, Miami had to work that much harder to erase their deficit, making it tough for them to contain the Orange when Syracuse flipped a switch late in the game.
The win ensures that Syracuse remains the top team in the ACC and means they are just one game away from entering their highly anticipated showdown with the Duke Blue Devils next Saturday with a record of 20-0.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.