Facing one of their toughest challenges of the season, the Pitt men’s basketball team plays at Wake Forest Wednesday night.
The Panthers enter after a 69-56 finish at Boston College delayed to Sunday from Saturday due to weather conditions.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (8-13, 3-7 ACC) second matchup against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (17-5, 7-4).
Last Time Out
Pitt dragged through the first half against the Eagles down by nine points (31-22) at the end of 20 minutes. Makai Ashton-Langford torched the Panthers with 21 points. Pitt arrived at the Silvio O. Conte Forum only hours before tip-off forced by rotten weather accumulation in the northeast.
Pitt still succeeded on the offensive boards but collectively struggled shooting as a team. The Panthers were 20-for-57 from the floor and faltered at the free-throw line. The team combined recorded an 11-for-19 mark, only 58%, and contributed to the difference in the outcome. Femi Odukale was one of three Panthers in double figures totaling 16 points. Jamarius Burton totaled 15 and Ithiel Horton 11 back from suspension.
The Blue and Gold last faced Wake Forest on March 2, 2021, coming away with a 70-57 victory. The script is reversed this season with Wake Forest one of the ACC’s top opponents and threats to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Pitt is 4-6 in its last 10 games and concludes a two-game road trip in Winston-Salem.
Horton and Gueye Pair Up
Horton played solid in 23 minutes of work with charges and a suspension now being pushed to the back of his mind. Pitt’s best three-point shooter, Horton went 3-of-7 from deep and collected three rebounds. Inserting him into the starting lineup in the next few games can add an additional scoring threat and build up his game speed back to top form after the absence.
Horton is one of the most talented players on the roster and shot the second-most attempts behind Burton Sunday. Mouhamadou Gueye only scored five points but brought down nine rebounds in the loss. Gueye stands out on the floor for his long wingspan and commitment to the defensive end. An underrated role player, Gueye can be creative offensively if given the chance and is a solid secondary punch to John Hugley.
The Panthers’ defense, especially down the stretch, is what must pick up for Pitt to have a chance to pull off the upset. Defensive struggles have been prevalent in the final minutes, outside of the Syracuse win, but must be tightened up and be in good standing. Pitt mismatches Wake Forest in offensive rebounds (9.6-7.7) and turn it over at a similar pace. The result will come down to if Pitt can limit the dynamic scorers the Demon Deacons possess.
The Wake Forest Report
Wake Forest has been fantastic this season overall but back-and-forth in the ACC. The team was manhandled by Syracuse 94-72 on the road Saturday snapping a four-game win streak. That streak included convincing wins over Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Boston College. The Demon Deacons are 6-4 in their last 10 contests.
Currently No. 5 in the conference, Wake Forest relies on its bullseye shooting to get the job done. They shoot a staggering 48.6% from the field, tied for 11th in the country, and makes over eight threes-per-game. These numbers completely outduel Pitt’s five threes and 40.6% mark from the field. Wake Forest, similar to Pitt, rebounds at a high clip but more so on the defensive than offensive boards. They move the ball around at a high percentage and take good looks add to assist numbers.
This could be a bad matchup for the Panthers Wednesday night due to the Deamon Deacons’ strengths. Pitt does not have a road win in the ACC despite playing physical and grinding out possessions. Guard Alondes Williams is the undisputed player to watch for leading Wake Forest in minutes (33.5), points (19.8), rebounds (6.8), and assists (5.1). Jake LaRavia (14.9) and Daivien Williamson (13.4) both score in double figures and will be key contributors in the game.
Wake Forest is favored by 13 points in Wednesday morning’s latest odds.
Pitt is *11-10 against the spread this year and is two for two when 13 or more-point underdogs.
The over/under for the game is set at 136 points and Pitt is +600 on the money line.
Wake Forest is 13-9 ATS and has hit the over in 13 of 22 games.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Wake Forest and Pitt matchup will air on ESPN2 Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Rece Davis and Debbie Antonelli will call the game.
The action can also be heard live on 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt battles it out with Virginia Tech for two games in three days beginning at the Petersen Events Center Saturday at 7 p.m.