There weren’t a lot of positives that could possibly be taken from Pitt’s season-opening thrashing at the hands of lowly St. Francis on Wednesday.
But there was at least one: the play of freshman small forward Will Jeffress.
Making his NCAA debut, Jeffress played 20 minutes, tied for third on the team, and scored seven points, which tied him for fourth. He also snagged four rebounds, fifth on the Panthers.
Jeffress wasn’t part of the starting lineup, with shooting guard Ithiel Horton and wings Au’Diese Toney, Justin Champagnie filling the gap between point guard Xavier Johnson and power forward John Hugley.
But it appears that the young freshman, who forwent his senior season of high school basketball to play with the Panthers, will be an important part of Pitt’s rotation going forward.
“I just wanted to come off the bench and supply energy to my team, continue to communicate and keep pushing our guys to know that we can still win the game, even though we were behind,” Jeffress said after the game.
It will be interesting to see how Jeff Capel and company use the 17-year-old small forward going forward, starting today against Drexel.
LET’S NOT DO THAT AGAIN
After losing its season opener to St. Francis on Wednesday, the Panthers need a win over Drexel to avoid a rare 0-2 start.
The Panthers have started 0-2 just once since 1996. That was when the 2017-18 team lost at Navy and then to Montana in the home opener. Of course, that 0-2 start portended an 0-18 run through ACC that got head coach Kevin Stallings fired.
Strangely, the 1996-97 squad fared better after an 0-3 start that included loss to Illinois State, at Navy and at North Carolina. Pitt rebounded to finished 18-15 with a 10-8 mark in Big East play and made the NIT.
PITT vs. DREXEL
SCOUTING THE DRAGONS
KenPom rating: 166
Top scorer: G Camren Wynter (15.7 pts/gm in 2019-20)
HOW TO WATCH
Streaming: ACC Network Extra [Kevin Wheeler, Julius Page]
Radio: 93.7 The Fan and Pitt Radio Network [Jeff Hathhorn, Curtis Aiken]
All-time series: First meeting