The No. 3-ranked Syracuse Orange just didn’t have enough Monday night as they lost 74-66 to the Pittsburgh Panthers (No. 5 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the USA Today/Coaches poll) in an anticipated Big East Conference match up at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
Syracuse faithful may have many different feelings after having their 18-game winning streak snapped by a team they haven’t beaten since the spring of 2006 — I guess, you can’t ask for too much since that was one heck of a run by Gerry McNamara and the 2005-'06 Orange (the link will make you feel a bit better). The first feeling a Orange supporter may have is relief because after being down "the greatest margin in NCAA Division I history" -- at least that's what it felt like -- one was probably sweating bullets and praying that the refs were not going to enforce some type of mercy rule. Luckily, Syracuse actually decided to show up and make it a contest.
The second feeling is disappointment because SU could have won that game! After being down 19-0, the Orange (18-1, 5-1) actually tied the game at 41-41 with about 14 minutes to go -- SU could have taken the lead earlier but sophomore guard missed a chip-shot lay in when the score was 37-36. But in the end, Pittsburgh was just too strong underneath -- there's only so much that junior forward Rick Jackson can do by himself.
The third feeling is anticipation for the return of junior forward and leading scorer Kris Joseph. You think the game was good on the road without Joseph? Imagine if this game was played on a neutral court -- maybe Houston, TX? -- with a conscious Joseph playing. Dick Vitale's head would explode within the first four minutes.
I take that game for what it was: A well played, Big East contest between two Top-5 teams. In both the first and last eight minutes of the game, Pitt proved it's a Top-5, Final Four squad. Syracuse, without it's best player, proved it can test a Final Four-type opponent, which is a great sign for SU fans.