Tyler Ennis leads No. 2 Syracuse past No. 22 Pittsburgh

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Familiar rivals No. 22 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Syracuse met on Saturday afternoon, but under a new banner with first place in the ACC on the line. And given the Panthers’ success against Syracuse under Jamie Dixon, they had a good understanding of what it took to execute properly against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense.

Pittsburgh made good use of the area in the middle of the zone, hitting the foul line area on many occasions and they attacked the short corner as well. The Panthers may have left a few points on the board in the first half in the form of missed attempts at the rim, but it was clear that they had the ability to leave the Carrier Dome with what would have been a big victory.

But even with Lamar Patterson heating up from beyond the arc in the second half and Pittsburgh taking a 52-49 with 4:41 remaining, the Panthers were unable to close. The reason why: Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who by this point in the season should be on any list discussing national Player of the Year candidates.

Never rushed, the smooth floor general made the key plays late in Syracuse’s 59-54 win, moving the Orange to 18-0 on the season and 5-0 in ACC play. Ennis, who finished the game with 16 points and three assists, scored six points to spearhead a game-ending 10-2 run. He may not have reached his average in assists (5.6 apg) on Saturday afternoon, but in a game that required sound decision-making in the half court Ennis got the job done.

Syracuse, who can be lethal in the open floor when given the opportunity to run, scored just three fast-break points against a Pittsburgh team well-schooled in making sure the Orange don’t get too many of those chances. But Syracuse shot 51.2% from the field (65.4% on two-point shots) and scored 32 of their 59 points in the paint, with forwards Rakeem Christmas (ten points, four rebounds), C.J. Fair (13 points, six rebounds) and Jerami Grant (12 points, four rebounds) all scoring in double figures.

During the offseason Ennis was the focus of many projections for Syracuse; with essentially no other option at the position he was seen as the difference between a good team and one that could potentially win a national title. On Saturday afternoon, the freshman once again showed why he’s one of the nation’s best players.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.