A rare two games in three days against the same opponent gives Pitt basketball a chance to bounce back from a three-game losing streak.
The Panthers lost 76-71 at home to Virginia Tech Saturday and dropped seven games under .500.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (8-15, 3-9 ACC) rematch against the Virginia Tech Hokies (13-10, 5-7).
Last Time Out
Similar to the Wake Forest game, Pitt was dominated by Virginia Tech in the first half. The Panthers were outscored 49-22 as Virginia Tech shot an unreal 18-for-24 (75%) from the floor. This included an unbelievable 10-for-13 mark from behind the three-point arc spanning the first 20 minutes inside the Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers were not terrible to start, but only shot 40% and had to be near perfect to keep up. They did just that for most of the second half, going 17-for-24 (70.8%) overall and also scoring 49 points. The difference was five additional points scored by the Hokies than the Panthers in their low-scoring half to propel the program to victory.
Virginia Tech left the door wide open for Pitt to walk through and just barely closed it shut despite missing critical free throws in the final minutes. The Hokies only made 7-of-12 foul shots in the second half and came back down to earth missing nine of 13 attempted threes. Pitt could not mount the comeback and sits second to last in the ACC only ahead of N.C. State.
On the Break
Against a strong offensive team able to create highly efficient shots, one of Pitt’s keys to almost pulling off the upset was pushing the tempo. The Panthers scored 15 fast-break points compared to only two for Virginia Tech. Pitt capitalized on 16 V-Tech turnovers with 26 points while shooting one of its best marks from three and the foul line. Pitt made 6-of-10 triples in the second half and 12-of-14 free throws to stay within reach of a victory.
Femi Odukale and Jamarius Burton led the charge with 25 and 21 points, respectively. John Hugley was a major focal point for the Hokies defensively, only allowing two points and four rebounds to the sophomore big. Hugley was double-teamed and forced to kick the ball back out to shooters including Odukale and Burton. Odukale was impressive making 5-of-7 threes and hitting all four foul shots he attempted.
Noah Collier provided 14 minutes off the bench along with 20 from Ithiel Horton. Horton was shut out and Collier only collected one basket as Pitt was once again outplayed off the bench totaling a 17-2 disadvantage. A faster start would have paid dividends and not force a miracle-type comeback. It’s hard for Pitt to win shoutouts, and against a dynamic shooting team, it becomes even tougher down more than 20 points.
Attack of the Hokies
The Hokies’ top-ranked offense did not disappoint in the first half of action in front of a crowd of just over 8,500 fans. The lights-out three-point shooting team lived up to their name to begin the game but faltered in the final 20 minutes. After making 10-of-13, Virginia Tech finished at a still respectable 14-26 (53.8%), only four percent lower than its shooting mark. The early scoring streak left Pitt stunned by the quick offensive outbreak and Jeff Capel’s team fighting to stick around.
Virginia Tech also out-rebounded Pitt on the offensive glass 6-2. Storm Murphy scored a team-high 20 points and Justyn Mutts was active totaling 16 points and five rebounds. Darius Maddox came off the bench to record nine points on 3-of-4 shooting and outscore the entire Panthers’ second unit. Leading scorer Keve Aluma only contributed six points in the win.
From the Hokies’ standpoint, giving Pitt a chance to come back and possibly win it in the last two minutes is one reason why the team is 13-10 overall and 5-5 in their last 10 games. Despite being on a three-game winning streak, V-Tech has been up and down in close games. They’ve lost to Virginia by two, N.C. State and Boston College by five, both 68-63 finals, as well as Miami by three. Being back at home will help, but if the Panthers can bring the same intensity to both halves tonight that they showed in the latter half of Saturday a road upset is unlikely but possible.
Virginia Tech is favored by 13 points in Monday morning’s latest odds.
Pitt is 12-11 against the spread during the 2021-22 season and covered at home Saturday night.
The over/under for the game is set at 128 points and Pitt is +600 on the money line.
Virginia Tech fell to 11-12 ATS despite the win and is -900 on the money line.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Virginia Tech and Pitt matchup will air on the ACC Network Monday night at 7 p.m. Jay Alter and Malcolm Huckaby are back on the call.
The action can also be heard live on 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt begins a four-day road trip at the Cassell Coliseum before going south for the winter, at least a short time, to face Florida State Wednesday at 9 p.m.