Rivalry continued: Former Big East rivals Syracuse, Pittsburgh square off for first time as ACC foes

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first_imgWhen Syracuse announced its move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference two years ago, fans first complained about the death of the Villanova and Georgetown rivalries. Then they realized Duke and North Carolina would make trips to Syracuse, and relief set in.Lost somewhere in the series of reactions, though, was excitement for the renewal of the Orange’s rivalry with Pitt. SU has more history with Pittsburgh than the Hoyas and the Wildcats. The Carrier Dome has packed 30,000-plus seven times for the Panthers.“We know their style in and out, and they know us,” said SU forward C.J. Fair.Which is why the tilt against an old Big East rival on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Dome is the No. 2 Orange’s most anticipated ACC game yet. Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 ACC) holds a 63-39 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to the Orange’s undefeated 1913-14 season, but the No. 22 Panthers (16-1, 4-0) have dominated since Jamie Dixon took the helm in 2003. The head coach is 10-4 in his career against SU.With ACC supremacy on the line in a season in which the league feels a lot more like the Big East — five of the top 10 scoring defenses in the country reside in the ACC — Saturday will likely feel like any Pitt game of old, down to the potential 30,000-person crowd.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Fair said, “and it’ll come down to whoever wants it more.”In recent years, only Louisville has had more consistent success against Syracuse than Pitt, but the meetings are always close. The Orange needed every one of James Southerland’s 3-pointers to avoid an upset against Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament last year. The Panthers pulled off the upset in a raucous Petersen Events Center against SU earlier that season.None of the past five meetings between the two has been decided by more than 10 points. Every game has been a battle.“They’re a physical team,” said Fair, who has split four games against Pittsburgh in his career. “They pound on the backboards and they don’t give you nothing easy. You’ve got to look for everything.”Until 2012, Syracuse had trouble cracking Dixon. The coach won eight of his first 10 games against the Orange and five in a row from 2007-2011. Last season, Pitt handed SU its second loss in what would be a stretch of seven losses in its last 12 games to end the regular season.“We got beat up really as badly as we’ve ever gotten beaten up,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. “Those things are going to happen.”On Saturday, Pittsburgh could provide the Orange’s toughest home test once again. Villanova was ranked higher (No. 8), but SU cruised to victory after a slow start. That doesn’t usually happen for Pittsburgh. Since Dixon took over, only three of the 14 games against SU have been decided by more than 10 points.Considering Syracuse’s struggles to split with the Panthers — the Orange has beaten Dixon just once at Peterson Events Center, on Feb. 29, 2004 — grabbing a win Saturday is crucial to establish which former Big East team is the power in the ACC.“Pitt’s a tough on-the-road game,” said SU forward Jerami Grant after Syracuse’s 69-59 win against Boston College on Monday. “This is definitely helping us going forward.”Syracuse has won by fewer than 10 just once since Dec. 15, but with the Panthers, the schedule takes a turn. Games against struggling North Carolina and Virginia Tech teams are behind the Orange. In a new, rugged ACC, a meeting between two former Big East teams sets the tone for the league heading into the heart of conference play.“There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in everybody’s season,” Boeheim said after SU’s win against the Tar Heels on Saturday. “We’ve got brutally tough games coming up as we go forward.” Comments Published on January 17, 2014 at 4:40 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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