Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - A change to a new league didn't prevent Syracuse and Pittsburgh from putting on another memorable matchup.
With freshman Tyler Ennis coming up with a pair of huge baskets in the final two minutes, the second-ranked Orange took sole possession of first place in the ACC with a 59-54 victory over the No. 22 Panthers at the Carrier Dome.
Ennis, who scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, delivered an underhanded layup that gave Syracuse a 53-52 lead with 1:48 remaining, then drove the lane and scored again with 31 seconds to play as the Orange (18-0, 5-0 ACC) held off their longtime conference rival in the schools' first-ever meeting as ACC foes.
C.J. Fair added 13 points and Jerami Grant had 12 for the still-unbeaten Orange.
Lamar Patterson finished with 18 points, 14 of which came after halftime, for Pittsburgh (16-2, 4-1), which had a six-game win streak halted. Talib Zanna recorded 12 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
With Patterson leading the charge, the Panthers battled back from a 10-point deficit to surge ahead entering the last two minutes. His fourth 3-pointer of the second half staked Pitt to a 49-48 lead with under six minutes left, and the reigning ACC Player of the Week later buried two free throws to cap a 12-3 run that placed Syracuse in a 52-49 hole.
After Grant hit a pair from the line to get the Orange within one, Ennis followed Zanna's missed jumper with a tough basket in traffic to send Syracuse back in front.
"We like to give him the opportunity in those situations," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Ennis. "He just has a knack for doing it that's as good as just about anybody that I've seen."
Ennis came up clutch once again two possessions later, dribbling into the paint and converting a nifty left-handed layup that lengthened the lead to 55-52. The rookie guard added two key free throws after Pitt's Michael Young sank a pair from the stripe, keeping the Orange ahead by three with 4.8 seconds on the clock.
"He doesn't make freshman mistakes. Actually, he doesn't make many mistakes at all for that matter," said Fair. "His play has been a huge plus for us this season."
Syracuse fouled Patterson before he could get a potential tying 3-point shot off and he misfired on the first foul shot. Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas then grabbed the rebound on an intentional miss to seal the outcome.
"We had a three-point lead, we had the ball, and we didn't do the things we needed to do," Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon remarked.
Clinging to a 27-25 edge early in the second half, Syracuse began to gain some separation by putting together a 10-2 run with Ennis at the forefront.
The freshman canned a jumper and stole the ball on Pittsburgh's next trip down the court before feeding Trevor Cooney for a successful trey that lengthened the margin to seven points. After the Panthers' Cameron Wright missed two from the line, Grant scored on a hook shot to give Syracuse a 34-25 advantage with 16 minutes to go.
It was a 10-point differential after Ennis knocked down a three with 14:28 left, putting Syracuse in front by a 37-27 count.
The Panthers responded courtesy of Patterson, who drained a trio of 3-pointers within a span of just over a minute to pull Pitt within 39-36 via a 9-2 flurry.
Neither team was ahead by more than six points during a first half marked by strong defense on both sides. The Orange built a 21-15 lead with under 6 1/2 minutes left in the period by virtue of an 11-3 run, which Cooney began with a 3-pointer and Grant capped with an authoritative putback dunk, and went into the break up 25-21 after holding the Panthers to a 37.5 percent shooting rate and forcing seven turnovers.