After another tough loss at the hands of Virginia, Pitt basketball plays at Clemson Saturday night before returning home once again Tuesday.
The Panthers lost 66-61 Wednesday night and sit 13th in the current ACC standings entering the weekend.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (7-11, 2-5) second matchup against the Clemson Tigers (10-8, 2-5).
The Panthers take a break from a stretch of rematches to face Clemson at 6 p.m. Pitt’s defeat against Virginia was another in a long line of close finishes and missed opportunities. The Blue and Gold were alive for mostly the entire game but struggled defensively throughout the second half. Reece Beekman totaled 19 points and Jayden Gardner 14 due in part to second-chance opportunities created by bigs Francisco Caffaro and Kadin Shedrick.
It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but Mouhamadou Gueye played strong for head coach Jeff Capel adding eight points and six rebounds to the equation. Gueye was limited due to foul trouble contributing to the lack of success Pitt displayed defensively. John Hugley was up to his usual ways in the first half until Virginia coach Tony Bennett shifted more attention to the Panther big man. Hugley scored a game-high 23 points playing 35 minutes. Jamarius Burton once again played all 40 minutes shooting 4-7 from the floor and 4-6 at the free-throw line.
One of the known issues for Pitt is limited depth and reliability off the bench. William Jeffress, Nate Santos, Daniel Oladapo, and Noah Collier took the floor and combined for only eight points. This continues to be a major takeaway and the losses of Nike Sibande for the entire season and Ithiel Horton for an extended period of time leave these four in the spotlight to make a surprising but impactful contribution.
Watch Out: Gueye and Femi
Gueye has averaged 27 minutes in all 18 games but foul trouble has caused problems maintaining durability. Standing 6’9” with a long wingspan, Gueye stretches the floor and moves without the basketball to assist on the glass. It would not be surprising to see him emerge into a scoring threat with Hugley drawing significant double teams, going with a large lineup, and controlling second-chance points.
Femi Odukale is another contributor who needs to be a more consistent playmaker. Odukale looked hesitant to attack the basket in the first half Wednesday night but drove down the right side of the lane on numerous occasions in the final five minutes. He has the talent to be the Panthers’ leading scorer any given night averaging nearly 12-per-contest. Being a primary ballhandler and distributor has been part of Odukale’s identity needs impactful and efficient shots to make a greater difference.
Gueye and Odukale can help Pitt climb out of the basement against Clemson and pick up a much-needed road victory. Pitt has only one win coming away from the Pete against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
Eye of the Tiger
Clemson sits right above Pitt in the conference standings at 12th with a 2-5 ACC record. The Tigers enter the day after losing 91-78 Tuesday at Syracuse. Clemson is a low-scoring team in college basketball averaging 66 points-per-game but shoots an efficient 46.6%, good for a tie at 71st in the NCAA.
One of the main reasons for the Tigers’ above .500 record overall is their three-point shooting abilities. Clemson knocks down over eight threes a night at a 37.8% clip, 30th best compared to the Panthers tied for 319th. Saturday could be a challenge for Pitt as a grit and grind team facing one of the ACC’s best shooting programs. Clemson also moves the ball around averaging 14.5 assists and takes care of the ball and creating efficient shots offensively.
One area Pitt can exploit, thanks to Hugley and Gueye, is the offensive glass. Adding extra possessions against a strong shooting team is a necessity especially on the road. Clemson shoots averagely from the foul line but can capitalize down the stretch if necessary. The Tigers are in a good position with a shaky Pitt team and could be another tough night at the office for the Panthers.
Four players pace Clemson in double figures led by 14.7 from forward PJ Hall. Al-Amir Dawes (11.2), David Collins (11.6), and Hunter Tyson (10.9) will also be impactful near the basket. A win for either team will move them to 3-5 in the ACC and push closer to being a middle-of-the-pack conference team.
Clemson is favored by 9 points at home in Saturday morning’s latest odds.
The Panthers and Tigers are both 13-5 against the spread this season. Pitt has covered on five occasions when being nine or more point underdogs.
The over/under for the late-night contest is set at 132 points and Pitt is +340 on the money line.
Clemson has recorded the over in 11 of 18 opportunities.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Clemson and Pitt matchup will air on the ACC Network Saturday night at 6 p.m. Wes Durham and Perry Clark have the call.
The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt plays Syracuse on Tuesday back at the Petersen Events Center beginning at 6 p.m. traveling to Boston College next Saturday.