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Pitt Vs. Syracuse: Panthers Play No. 1 Orange On Road

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In the midst of a six-game slide, Pitt again heads on the road to face a ranked team - this time, No. 1 Syracuse.

The Orange are undefeated this season and could be college basketball's best team. Clearly, the Panthers will need to play their best game of the season to take down the Cuse.

Things are looking up a bit for the Panthers. Pitt came out and played fairly well against Marquette this weekend on the road. They didn't have enough to pull out a victory, losing a second-half lead, but they were at least competitive. But the fact is that Pitt is still a ways away and will need to play significantly better to win on Monday night.

The good news? Pitt has dominated Syracuse recently. The Panthers have won eight of the past nine games against Syracuse, including an astounding five straight road games at the Carrier Dome. For whatever reason, Pitt hasn't found beating the Orange to be all that difficult.

Still, that doesn't mean Pitt will win this one ... or that the Panthers will even have a good chance to bring home a victory. This is looking like the weakest Pitt team in the Jamie Dixon era and without starting point guard Tray Woodall, the team has struggled mightily.

Dixon, though, may have found a formula to improve the team. Against Marquette on Saturday, he started redshirt freshman Isaiah Epps at point guard. Epps didn't play particularly well (zero points and two assists), but he turned the ball over only once in 26 minutes of action and relieved Ashton Gibbs of the point guard duties. That, in turn, freed up Gibbs to get back to doing what he does best - shooting the ball. The result? A season-high 29 points.

For Pitt to win, though, they're going to need to get more offensive production from Epps and starter, Talib Zanna. The two combined for only two points in 55 minutes against the Golden Eagles on Saturday. That's far too little production for two starters receiving significant minutes.

For more on the game and Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.