Big East Notebook: Men’s basketball

Orange falls far from tree

Syracuse played its first game since it was knocked off by Villanova Saturday in Pittsburgh, and the Panthers were ready.

Led by Tray Woodall’s 13 points, Pittsburgh upset the Orange, 65-55. The Panthers had balanced scoring, with 10 players earning points. Pittsburgh moved the ball efficiently, dishing 19 assists as a team.

C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 20 points, Brandon Triche added 14, and Michael Carter-Williams finished with 13. The rest of the roster managed just eight points.

Collectively, the Orange shot just 36.7 percent from the field to Pittsburgh’s 48, and both teams attempted roughly the same number of field goals (Pitt 50, Syracuse 49).

Though the Panthers missed seven of their 21 free throw attempts and turned the ball over 20 times, they dominated half-court play.

Under the basket, they out-rebounded Cuse 39-24, including 14 offensive rebounds. The defense picked up nine steals and disrupted the Orange offense, allowing them only five total assists.

The loss was Syracuse’s second in a row, and it kept the Orange from grabbing sole possession of first place in the conference until they knocked off Notre Dame Monday.

Getting crowded at the top

As of Monday, eight teams have at least six wins in the Big East. Syracuse and Marquette lead with two conference losses; Cincinnati, Louisville and Georgetown have three; and Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and St. John’s have seen the most Big East action with four losses apiece.

Nestled in seventh place is Connecticut, at 5-3.

With nine teams boasting a record over .500, 2012-13 is proving to be one of the toughest years in Big East history. With the conference scheduled to lose key members next season, it seems fitting.

Even the under-.500 squads have had flashes of brilliance. Every team has at least one win in conference play, and only two teams, Rutgers and USF, have sub-.500 overall records.

Villanova currently ranks 10th in the Big East but two weeks ago went on a winning spree, knocking off former No. 1 Louisville and handing Syracuse its first conference loss. Last week, however, the Wildcats dropped to 4-5 with back-to-back losses at the hands of Notre Dame and Providence.

It’s truly been a season of unmatched parity, as each of the top nine teams still has a shot at the number one spot. And that’s before the madness that is the Big East tournament begins.

Game of the Week

Louisville at Notre Dame: Saturday 9 p.m.

The Cardinals are rallying from a three-game losing streak that knocked them from the top spot in the nation. With a 70-51 home win over No. 25 Marquette Sunday and a matchup with three-win Rutgers earlier in the week, Saturday’s contest in South Bend could be a shot at further redemption for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, at 6-5 after a loss against Syracuse, Notre Dame can greatly add to its conference stock with a win.

Player of the Week

Shabazz Napier, junior guard, Connecticut

Napier led the Huskies to two overtime wins against Providence and South Florida last week. Against the Friars he scored 18 points, including eight in overtime, and against the Bulls he finished with 24 points, including 11 in the extra period. The junior guard leads 5-3 Connecticut in scoring with 17.2 points per game.