By WILL GRAVES
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Bourama Sidibe’s aching left knee finally appears to be coming around. Syracuse’s weird season may follow suit.
The freshman forward came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points to go with 16 rebounds in 31 energetic minutes as the Orange pulled away from Pittsburgh late in a 60-55 victory. Limited to just 35 minutes total during Syracuse’s first seven Atlantic Coast Conference games, Sidibe looked healthy at both ends of the floor as Syracuse (15-6, 4-4 ACC) won its third straight.
“He was spectacular I thought,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought he had like 12 [points] and 12 [rebounds]) or something, or 12 and 10. Good thing I didn’t take him out.”
Sidibe’s play didn’t allow it. While the starting frontcourt of Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu combined to shoot just 6 of 26, Sidibe made 6 of 8 shots, most of them layups around the basket .
“I just see opportunity and go and play,” Sidibe said. “Last game I wanted to play and I didn’t play. [Boeheim] was kind of telling me I’m not ready, my knee is not ready. I just go today and play and show him my knee is fine and I can play.”
Sidibe came in averaging just 2.8 points per game on the season and had scored 16 points total since Thanksgiving. He topped that total in the span of two hours as the Orange beat the Panthers for the second time in 11 days.
Tyus Battle chipped in 14 points for Syracuse, which held Pitt to 28 percent shooting (18 of 65) and never trailed after using a 12-3 surge to break a 40-40 tie. Brissett started the run with a tip-in and a 3-pointer, Sidibe hit a layup, Battle knocked down a 3-pointer of his own and when Sidibe made a layup, the Orange led 52-43 with 2:35 left.
“It felt ugly, the whole game,” Syracuse guard Frank Howard said. “The second half felt ugly to me as well, but at that point we just wanted to grind it out and focus on the next play and we hit some big shots on their court”
Marcus Carr led Pitt (8-14, 0-9) with 16 points and 12 assists and Jarod Wilson-Frame added 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds but the Panthers dropped their ninth straight.
Three days after a near miss against North Carolina State, the Panthers hung around for more than 30 minutes but couldn’t seem to figure out Syracuse’s 2-3 zone with any consistency. Pitt endured a stretch of 8:55 in the first half without a bucket and missed 12 straight shots in the second half to give the Orange time to take control.
“We know there’s going to be growing pains for a new team like ourselves,” Wilson-Frame said. “The last two games, we had ‘em right in our hands, an opportunity to win. Couple mistakes here and there, a couple of missed shots.”