Pitt’s 2020-21 men’s basketball season, riddled with mid-season transfers and schedule adjustments caused by the pandemic, came to an end Tuesday afternoon on the floor of the historic Greensboro Coliseum.
The Panthers fought mightily, but ultimately didn’t play well enough to advance in the ACC tournament. Jeff Capel’s side – seeded 12th – lost the tournament’s opening game to No. 13 Miami, 79-73.
What doomed Pitt (10-12; 6-11 ACC) was its poor performance at the charity stripe. Pitt shot just 5-of-14 from the free throw line, a 35.7% clip. Miami (9-16; 5-15 ACC) meanwhile made 22-of-28 free throws for a 78.6% accuracy mark. Capel has complained recently about how the Panthers have been officiated this season, and it was easy to see the disparity on Tuesday: Miami went to the line 14 more times and Pitt was called for nine more fouls.
Capel didn’t use that as an excuse though.
“They played better than us,” Capel said. “They have a talented group of offensive guys.”
Leading Pitt on the stat sheet was freshman Femi Okudale, who scored a career-high 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting. The Brooklyn, New York native also had six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
Nike Sibande, a transfer from Ohio, also posted a Pitt-best in scoring, tallying 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Sibande also chipped in six rebounds and two assists.
Pitt’s star, All-ACC First Team selection Justin Champagnie, struggled a bit in what might’ve been his final game in a Panthers’ uniform. The 6-foot-6 sophomore totaled 11 points on 20 shots, while also notching 10 rebounds and three blocks. Champagnie is seen as a legit NBA prospect who has often been projected as a second-round pick.
The Panthers led early on in the game, but it truly was a back-and-forth affair, one that featured five lead changes in the first 14 minutes. After Pitt took a 19-16 lead at the 8:36 mark in the first half, Miami embarked on a 15-5 run, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers from Elijah Olaniyi. Pitt bounced back with a 12-9 run to end the half, but Miami carried a four-point lead into the locker room.
Again, the second half remained up-and-down, featuring five lead changes in the first seven minutes. The game was tied with 3:14 left, but Miami pulled away, ending the game on a 13-7 run.
Leading the Hurricanes was Isaiah Wong, who poured in 20 points and four assists. Anthony Walker had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Canes out-assisted Pitt 17-9.
Miami moves on in the ACC tournament, facing No. 5 Clemson on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.