Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Tyler Ennis is quickly earning a reputation as a clutch performer. And once again, the freshman standout came up huge down the stretch to preserve Syracuse's undefeated season.
Ennis' long 3-pointer at the buzzer extended the top-ranked Orange's best start in school history, while providing the difference in a 58-56 slugfest over No. 25 Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center.
Ennis, who came through with a pair of big baskets in the final two minutes of Syracuse's 59-54 decision over the Panthers at the Carrier Dome last month, put up 10 of his 13 points in the second half of Wednesday's rematch. C.J. Fair also delivered in crunch time for Syracuse (24-0, 11-0 ACC), netting 10 of his 14 points after intermission.
Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4) led for the majority of the night and appeared poised to spring the upset when Talib Zanna sank a pair of free throws for a 56-55 lead with 4.4 seconds left -- just enough time for Ennis to get off his near- miraculous final shot.
"I'll state the obvious and say that we are extremely disappointed," said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. "We felt that we had played well enough to win, but obviously they hit a couple shots and the big one down the stretch capped it for them."
Zanna finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, with Lamar Patterson recording 14 points for the Panthers.
A game dominated by defense and in which neither team was able to pull away at any stage saw three lead changes in the final half-minute of play. Ennis drew contact while driving the lane and Syracuse down 54-53 with 10.8 seconds left, and calmly hit both foul shots before the Orange called timeout.
Rakeem Christmas was called for a reach-in after Pittsburgh got the ball to Zanna in the low post, however, and the 61 percent free throw shooter easily knocked through both attempts to send the Panthers back in front.
Following a Pittsburgh timeout, Ennis dribbled his way past halfcourt and launched a desperation shot from over 30 feet out that swished through as time expired, handing the Panthers their first loss in 10 lifetime matchups at the Petersen Events Center against top-five opponents.
"Our offense could not get anything going all night because of Pitt's defense," said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. "I think the major reason we have trouble with Pittsburgh is because they play great defense. They've just played great defense against us over the years."
Syracuse trailed by as many as nine points in the second half and was down 54-48 following Zanna's putback with 1:56 to play. Fair buried a corner three on the ensuing possession, however, then drained a long baseline 2-pointer on the Orange's next trip down the court to cut the lead to one.
A James Robinson triple capped a 7-0 Pitt run that put the Panthers up 37-29 just over five minutes into the second half, but Trevor Cooney ignited a stretch of seven straight Syracuse points with a beyond-the-arc jumper as the Orange trimmed their deficit to two.
Another Cooney trey drew the Orange even at 45-45 with 6:55 left, but Pitt responded with a 9-3 spurt culminating with Zanna's tip-in with just under two minutes remaining.
Pittsburgh, which outrebounded Syracuse 35-24 for the contest, shot poorly for much of the first half but kept it close with its prowess on the glass before briefly catching fire just past the midway mark of the period. A 10-3 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Robinson and Patterson staked the Panthers to a 24-17 lead with under 4 1/2 minutes in the frame, though Pitt failed to make a field goal over the remainder of the half and the Orange inched closer.
Syracuse scored seven of the next eight points and pulled within 25-24 on a Cooney three 48 seconds prior to the intermission, but a pair of Zanna free throws in the final moments sent the Panthers into the break up by three.