Benny Williams made a resounding return to the starting lineup, but the Syracuse University men’s basketball team couldn’t capitalize on the jolt he provided.
Blake Hinson scored 22 points and made six 3-pointers to lead a second-half offensive onslaught as the Pittsburgh Panthers beat the Orange, 99-82, in an Atlantic Coast Conference game Saturday at Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
Syracuse suffered its third straight loss of 17 or more points for the first time in Jim Boeheim’s 47 seasons as head coach.
Williams delivered career highs of 24 points and five 3-pointers to go with nine rebounds for SU (16-13 overall, 9-9 ACC), which will host Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Hinson led six players in double figures with four providing multiple 3-pointers for Pitt (21-8, 14-4), which took sole possession of first place in the ACC standings following Saturday upsets of No. 6 Virginia and No. 13 Miami.
The Panthers tallied season highs in points and with 27 assists, finishing 16-for-41 from behind the arc to finish two shy of matching the team record. They surpassed the program single-season mark and ended the victory with 275 total 3-pointers for the year.
Pitt scored 63 points on 63.6 percent shooting in the second half and went 11-for-20 from deep after halftime to pull away down the stretch.
SU has surrendered 43 combined 3-pointers during its three-game losing streak, with at least 13 each to Duke, Clemson, and Pitt.
“We can not play man (defense), you can ask that question 100 times,” Boeheim said afterward.
He continued: “You can have a house painter and you say: ‘Now I want you to paint like Picasso,’ that would be good if he could do that, but he can’t. We play our defense, this is our defense. That’s it, we don’t have another defense. We tried all summer, we tried in the fall, our man (defense) is just not good.”
Williams made his first start for SU since Jan. 24 against North Carolina. He and freshman Justin Taylor replaced Chris Bell and Maliq Brown as the starting forwards.
Williams had started the first 20 games but averaged just 12.5 minutes per game off the bench over the last six, contributing a combined 19 points and nine boards and missing the Jan. 30 home loss to Virginia soon after his demotion to what was deemed a personal day.
The sophomore forward finished 8-for-15 from the field and 5-for-6 from deep to lead four SU players in double figures in his career outing. He entered just 10-for-35 on 3-pointers for the season with a previous high of 17 points on Nov. 15 against Colgate.
“We need somebody else to score and he can make that shot,” Boeheim said. “He’s improved his shooting. He can definitely help our offense.”
Seniors Joseph Girard III and Jesse Edwards added 19 and 17 points, respectively, and freshman Judah Mintz scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half to go with six assists for the Orange.
Williams provided instant energy with 11 points before the intermission and defensive contributions to keep SU afloat through a competitive first half.
Pitt led just 37-33 at halftime and was limited to 31 percent shooting, including 5-for-21 from deep.
Syracuse trailed by eight early but battled back to take a 30-29 advantage with six ties and four lead changes in the first half.
Boeheim went nearly 12 minutes before making a substitution with the game tied at 22 points apiece.
Taylor was held scoreless with one rebound in 17 minutes in his first career start, and fellow freshman Chris Bell did not play after starting all 28 games prior. Bell was averaging 6.6 points and 1.7 rebounds and Boeheim said he was available off the bench.
Freshman Quadir Copeland led the small forwards with six points and three boards in 23 minutes. Brown played just six minutes off the bench and didn’t record a point or rebound.
Greg Elliott added 19 points and went 5-for-11 from deep for Pitt, while the trio of Jamarius Burton, Nike Sibande, and Federiko Federiko added 14 points apiece.
The Panthers held a 25-11 edge in second-chance points and 21-8 advantage in points off turnovers. They entered averaging 9.2 makes from behind the arc to rank second in the ACC.
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