Pitt men’s basketball remains home Sunday night after snapping a four-game losing streak to host Monmouth.
The Panthers dropped their last four games to Vanderbilt, UMBC, Minnesota, and Virginia before breaking the streak against Colgate. Pitt had a golden opportunity to take down the Cavaliers and Golden Goffers but beat the streak against the Raiders.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (3-6) home matchup against the Monmouth Hawks (7-2).
A Stop and a Stand
Pitt’s matchup against Colgate came down to the wire for the third-consecutive game. The Panthers have fought their way to be in the thick of winning in the final moments, and after failing in their last two games, made the third time a charm to win their third game.
The Blue and Gold’s ability to play solid defense and out physical Colgate contributed to the victory. Pitt outrebounded the Raiders 35-23 and did a solid job defending the three. Colgate shoots at one of the highest percentages in the country from downtown but struggled and shot only 26% in Pitt’s 71-68 win. Femi Odukale made a significant play defensively to seal the victory, something Pitt lacked in attempting to close out games on a positive note.
Colgate was limited to taking shots it was uncomfortable with and had to be creative against the Panthers. The win could provide confidence for Jeff Capel’s team proving they have the ability to win tight contests. As the end of non-conference play nears, another chance at closing out a tight game against a decent opponent can be a stepping stone into ACC play.
Second Half Impact
It might be stating the obvious, but a dynamic second half remaining in contention and sticking with your offensive gameplan is vital to creating a more stable identity moving forward. A strong start is important too, but more importantly, it’s not how you start but how you finish. This was evident with John Hugley against Colgate, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the second half. Pitt trailed by two after 20 minutes and the emergence of Hugley was enough to push the Panthers over the finish line.
Especially with an inexperienced team still molding together, fighting with grit and toughness can occasionally overcome a lack of top-tier talent. Hugley is the undisputed more impactful player this season with a 31.9 usage percentage and team-highs in points (16.1) and rebounds (7.4). The 6’9’’ forward from Cleveland, Ohio has logged over a 48% clip from the field starting all nine games.
Second-half adjustments might also be factoring into Pitt’s resiliency, but another factor is the efforts of William Jeffress and Jamarius Burton. Top two in minutes-per-game, the duo has been solid defensively and have impacted the starting lineup. Burton has especially been noticeable since becoming a starter and playing more often. The Panthers need them to continue their toughness on the floor and grind out tough shots as 1.5-point underdogs at home.
The Monmouth Report
Monmouth has played well during the early portion of the 2021-22 season. The Hawks hail from the Metro Atlantic Athletic and are finding consistent success. Monmouth started the year 7-1 before falling 88-83 at St. John’s Thursday. Sunday marks the Hawks’ eighth road game of the year.
Similar to Colgate, Monmouth shots well from the field at 46% and is top 10 in the country from the free-throw line (80%). The Hawks are tied for 30th in the country from behind the arc, just under 39%, and present similar challenges the Panthers minimized in their last game. On the contrary, Monmouth also rebounds well on the defensive end, trailing Pitt statistically on the offensive glass.
Monmouth being favored on the road at the Petersen Events Center speaks volumes to how the Hawks play but also the disappointment Pitt has experienced. Typically a game the Panthers should handle without much question, the matchup might end up being another nailbiter down to the final shot.
Shavar Reynolds and George Papas are explosive guards to keep an eye on in the matchup. Reynolds (16.8) and Papas (16.6) are the team leaders in points and Papas also contributes on the boards. Walker Miller is another player to watch down low.
Monmouth is favored by 1.5 points in Sunday afternoon’s latest odds.
Pitt ended last season 11-10-1 against the spread. The Panthers are 5-4 against the spread this season.
The over/under for the Panthers’ second-straight home game is set at 137.5 points.
Monmouth is 6-3 against the spread this season.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Monmouth and Pitt matchup will air on the ACC Network Sunday night beginning at 7 p.m.
The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt hits the road Saturday at 12 p.m. against St. John’s and airs on Fox Sports 1 and 93.7 The Fan.