Ennis' 35-footer keeps No. 1 Syracuse unbeaten
Tyler Ennis took the inbounds pass with 4.4 seconds left and dribbled up court, weaving through Pitt's defense. He had the option of shooting or passing to Trevor Cooney.
The Syracuse freshman guard decided to shoot.
It was the right decision.
Ennis made the 35-footer at the buzzer and No. 1 Syracuse remained unbeaten with a 58-56 victory over No. 25 Pitt on Wednesday night.
"I saw someone ran over to Trevor and I just had to beat one guy," Ennis said. "I knew they weren't going to let Trevor get it. I just had to get some space. I knew I could get open for a second."
Syracuse (24-0, 11-0 ACC) and Wichita State are the lone undefeated teams in Division I.
Talib Zanna, who led Pitt (20-5, 8-4) with 16 points and 14 rebounds, hit two free throws after being fouled on a layup attempt to give the Panthers a 56-55 lead before Ennis' winner.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon called a timeout after the free throws to set his defense. That also allowed Syracuse to draw up a play designed for its fearless freshman.
"We guarded it about as well as you could guard it," Dixon said. "He made about a 40-footer. We did what we were supposed to do. If we had to do it again. ... We did the right things.
"They were going to get a shot off. He made it, and he made a tough one. We knew he'd have the ball and would be the guy. We had two guys on him. He hit the shot. Our guys defended, and he hit a shot."
It was Pitt's first loss at home to a top-five team in the 12-year history of the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers had been 9-0 against top-five teams and 13-1 against teams ranked in the top 10.
"They hit a lucky shot," Zanna said. "We can't do anything about it, just move on."
C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 14 points.
Pitt had a 54-48 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining, but Fair made a 3-pointer with 1:40 to go. He then hit a jumper to make it 54-53 with 51 seconds left. After Pitt missed on the other end, Ennis made two free throws with 10 seconds left to give the Orange the lead.
"C.J. hadn't hit a 3 all game. He hadn't hit the rim, and he makes a 3 and then he hits a pretty tough pull-up to give us a chance," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Those were big plays and you have to be a special player to make those plays."
Pitt led 27-24 at halftime and built its lead to nine in the early stages of the second half when Lamar Patterson made a 3-pointer to make it 37-28 with 15 minutes remaining.
Syracuse stormed back with a 17-8 run and tied it on Trevor Cooney's 3-pointer with 6:53 to go, but Pitt regained control after Zanna converted a three-point play and freshman Jamel Artis sank two free throws for a 50-45 lead.
But it was all Syracuse after that. Pitt's only points in the final 1:59 came from Zanna's two free throws, and the Panthers were outscored 10-3 in the final 1:59.
Syracuse had to play without backup center Baye Moussa Keita, who sat out with a sprained knee. That forced sophomore forward Jerami Grant into duty as the backup center behind Rakeem Christmas.
Pitt had injury issues of its own. Senior forward and leading scorer Lamar Patterson had the thumb on his right hand wrapped for a second consecutive game. After going 1 for 9 in his previous outing against Virginia Tech, Patterson scored 13 points.