PITTSBURGH — Winning a game wasn’t an absurd concept, but winning in Pitt Panthers fashion seemed a bit far-fetched.
The Panthers entered the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina as a 10-point deficit and emerged as 8-point winners. It’s hard to overstate how impressive Pitt was in the ACC opener, as their wealth of experience shone through in key moments in a 68-60 win over NC State.
Runs left in the second half
The most exciting part of this game wasn’t that Pitt was leading by 12 on the road against an ACC opponent that had given them so much trouble in the past. No, their best performance came when Wolves were trying to mount a second-half comeback.
The Panthers held the lead in the second half, but NC State made it very uncomfortable with points. Twice they trailed by double digits by six or less, and both times Pitt answered with clutch shots to silence the roaring crowd and keep their opponents out of reach.
Jamarious Burton led the way, getting into the paint at will and scoring 16 of his career-high 24 points in the second half, with answers every time. Blake Hinson also made some big shots, while Nike Sibande shot with confidence to find some key buckets.
This is what their great experience should be – high stakes, tight games, composure and composure in the face of pressure from their opponents. For the first time this year, he really put his experience to good use.
Panthers include superstar Smith, Speedy package
Terquavion Smith did his best Trae Young impression early in the game, making his first three buckets from well beyond the 3-point line. He had 15 points, four assists, six rebounds and two steals, which didn’t even seem like his best effort. When faced with a talented player, it’s a win. The Panthers forced the ball out of his hands and asked someone else to beat them.
Pitt’s impressive defense extended to the rest of the floor. They beat the Wolf Pack in their own game, scoring 15 points with 12 steals and holding NC State’s remaining two pieces of the three-headed monster, Jarkel Joyner and Casey Morsell, to 10 points on 4-20 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists. The average score was 32.2.
Federico Federico learned how to use his length and agility against NC State forwards and centers who had a 50-pound advantage on him, with the help of a struggling John Hugli.
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Hooghly looks a step slow
Speaking of Hooghly, he didn’t look like a star for the second game in a row. He had just 3 points, no rebounds, 3 fouls, 3 steals and no assists. There are times when I feel like I don’t even know where I’m supposed to be. It’s still easy to begrudge his slowness as of late, but as he recovers from injury, it becomes a more reliable excuse.
While the Panthers appreciate the valuable minutes that junior Federico provided against NC State’s strong field, it’s not something Pitt should rely on all season. For it to be at its best, stars need to play like stars, and Hagley is one of those stars.
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