Chris Jones Drains Five Three-Pointers, As Pitt Fends Off A Syracuse Comeback And Wins Key Road Game 65-61


Feb 21, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers guard/forward Chris Jones (12) controls the ball against the defense of Syracuse Orange guard Ron Patterson (4) during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh defeated Syracuse 65-61. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It was not going to be easy.

Having beaten Syracuse 83-77 at the Peterson Events Center a few weeks ago, Pitt hit the road, looking to improve its NCAA Tournament resume with a season sweep of the Orange.

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Going into the contest, Pitt remained a NCAA “Bubble” team with work left to do.

Some say Pitt’s NCAA Tournament started today, as Pitt could not afford another loss.

Sophomore guard Chris Jones came off the bench and knocked down 5 of 6 three-pointers to spark and lead Pitt in scoring, tying his career-high of 19 points.  Pitt pulled ahead in the second half by 11 points, but the Orange surged back in the final minute.

Pitt hung on and came out of Syracuse a 65-61 victor, which added an important road win to the resume and will likely boost their RPI, which was 44 before the game.

For Pitt (18-10, 7-7 ACC), Jones provided the spark with 19 points, sophomore forward/ guard Jamel Artis added 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, while sophomore forward Michael Young scored 14 points.

Did you catch that all of these guys are sophomores?  As this team continues to gain experience and confidence, they are becoming a better basketball team.

For Syracuse (17-10, 8-6 ACC), senior center Rakeem Christmas scored a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, while junior guard Michael Gbinije added 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.  Junior guard Trevor Cooney was held scoreless, as he played with an apparent back injury.

As we have seen in recent games, Pitt once again shot the ball relatively well, making 25 of 51 field goals (49%), whereas Syracuse struggled shooting early in the game but caught fire late, shooting 44%.  Syracuse started the game shooting 1 of 14.

Going into this game, I thought Pitt needed to out-rebound the Orange to have a chance.  Syracuse won the rebounding advantage 35-21, as well as a lopsided 22-8 free throw advantage.

The unsung hero was Jones, draining 5 key three-pointers, and in the second half, Artis and Young would make key baskets when Syracuse appeared poised to get back into the game.

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  • In the first half, both teams played a strong defensive battle, where points were tough to come by.  The game looked like a former Big Easy Heavyweight Battle, as Syracuse forward Tyler Roberson played with cotton up his nose and an eye that was nearly swollen shut (refer to the featured picture in this article).

    The final two minutes of the half were very important.

    As Pitt trailed 23-20, Chris Jones made a jumper, followed by back-to-back three-pointers, and Artis drained a three-pointer as time expired, giving Pitt a 31-25 advantage at the half.

    Young came out in the second half and extended the Pitt lead to 35-25.

    Christmas cut the lead to three, but Young, Artis, and Jeter extended the Pitt lead to 11, with a 51-40 advantage with nine minutes remaining.

    With two and half minutes left, Jones drained an early three-point dagger to make it 60-51, but Syracuse went on a 9-1 run, as a B.J. Johnson three-pointer made it 61-60 Pitt with one minute left.

    Christmas committed an offensive foul, and James Robinson made both free throws to make it 63-60 with 35 seconds left.  Gbinije made only one free throw to cut the lead to 2, but Pitt broke the Syracuse press and Cameron Wright secured the win with a lay-up to make it 65-61.

    This was the first time Pitt has swept Syracuse since 2005.


    I nearly had a heart attack as Syracuse stormed back late, but this was a crucial win for Pitt.  ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi responded to one of my tweets after the Virginia loss, indicating that Pitt’s tourney chances do not look good.

    Regardless of what the rest of the bubble does, Pitt should be clearly in the discussion.  I believe Pitt controls its own destiny with the final four games, all of which are winnable.

    Pitt will host Boston College, travel to Wake Forest, host Bubble team Miami, and then travel to FSU to close out the season.

    If Pitt can win out, they will be 22-10 (11-7 ACC), which should secure them a strong enough RPI for a Tourney bid.

    The next two weeks should be an intense ride for a young Panthers team that may be gaining confidence.

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