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Pitt Basketball

Five Takeaways: John Hugley Showing He Can Adapt, Become Complete Player

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PITTSBURGH — Ever since teams took notice of John Hugley’s early-season dominance this year, essentially each and every opponent has double-teamed him defensively.

Hugley has had his fair share of ups and downs in his career at Pitt, headlined by his season-ending suspension during his freshman year. However, this year, on the court, he has had to overcome this other challenge of adapting to the looks that defenses throw at him.

“You teach,” Jeff Capel said when asked how he can help Hugley adjust. “That’s the thing. You teach. All of this, this time of year, is new for John. He didn’t get past December last year, and so January, especially late January and February, are always difficult times, especially for freshman. That’s basically what he is. You normally hit a wall. You’ve never gone through the intensity of practice or games. How the games come at you. With him, even more, with how physical teams are with him, the different looks that he’s getting, and trying to figure these things out. You talk to him, you watch a lot of tape with him, you work with him in practice, you show him the things that are open, and then you hope that he is able to figure it out. You hope that he is receptive and doesn’t get too down on himself.”

Hugley finished Saturday’s win with a game-high 21 points, with 13 of them coming from the free-throw line. He also grabbed ten rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double of the year. After he had combined for just 11 points in his previous three games, Hugley learned multiple ways to deal with what the defense threw his way: get to the free-throw line, set up his teammates, and crash the boards.

“We did the same thing that most teams do,” NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said after the game. “We came in with the idea that we were going to double him [Hugley]. I thought we were effective in that area, but what he did was, he got to the free-throw line. He had 21 points, but 13 came from the free-throw line, so he didn’t score a lot from the field, especially on post-ups. I think he had maybe four points on post-ups. But I thought he got some offensive rebounds. Give him credit, I thought he has gotten a lot better in the last two-to-three weeks finding people out of the double team. Probably a career high in assists.”

HORTON STILL SETTLING IN PHYSICALLY

Prior to Saturday’s game, Ithiel Horton had played in six games for Pitt, due to his suspension from the team that sidelined him for a large portion of the year.

In each of the first five games, Capel played Horton for less than 30 minutes. However, in the last two games, he has played 37 and 39 minutes, respectively.

“It was real tough,” Horton said. “My body is really still adjusting to that. And then the flight, little overlay. I don’t know, I’ve just been kind of mentally pushing through it. I’ve got to get back. I am going to be playing these minutes, and whether I like them or not, I’ve got to get back.”

“I didn’t do any conditioning up here at the gym,” Horton continued. “I just came up here and shot and worked on my skills, but I did a lot of conditioning when I had a lot of time back home. Running 17s, running eight-and-a-halves.”

Horton is now averaging 9.5 points per game this season, on 40% shooting from the field.

“It helps a lot,” Hugley said about Horton being back on the court. “It opens up the court more. If I am getting doubled, I just kick it out to him. If I am getting fronted help-side, I just skip it to IT corner. It all works out perfectly having him back.”

SNAPPED THE STREAK

Prior to this game, Pitt had lost 11 straight games to NC State, dating back to 2014.

“That’s not even a thought on our mind,” Hugley said about the previous losing streak to NC State. “The thought is, just keep fighting, let’s just get this one. Forget the 12 previous ones, we just have to fight to get this one, and that’s what we did.”

After a 23-year hiatus in a series between the two schools that dates back all the way to 1956, NC State and Pitt began playing each other year-in and year-out in 2014 as Pitt joined the ACC. Pitt won the first matchup in 2014, behind strong efforts from Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna, and Michael Young.

However, from then until Saturday, the series was all NC State.

On Saturday, Pitt looked to Hugley, Burton, and Horton to end the streak and extend its current winning streak on the season to two.

KEEP MO OUT THERE

After picking up two early fouls, Mo Gueye was sent to the bench for the rest of the first half, only playing seven minutes in the frame.

In the second half, he picked up two more fouls in the first ten minutes of the half, which caused Capel to once again bench him, this time from the 9:58 mark all the way down until the 4:34 mark. A little over one minute later, Gueye was gone. He fouled out after only logging 19 minutes of action.

Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jeff Cabel & Pittsburgh Panthers forward Mouhamadou Gueye (15) February 12, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Gueye has appeared in 26 games, has started in 22, and has picked up at least three fouls in 18 different games. He leads the team in total fouls, with 77. Although he has fouled out just twice, Gueye will need to stay out of foul trouble down the stretch of games because when he has been out there, he has made a massive difference for the Panthers.

10 WINS – WHAT’S NEXT?

Through 26 games, Pitt sits at 10-16 overall and 5-10 in conference play.

With five games remaining, what are the chances that Pitt continues its win streak?

North Carolina is up next. Pitt will take on the Tar Heels on Wednesday, Feb. 16 in Chapel Hill. The Heels are one of the better opponents Pitt will face all year, as they are ranked as the No. 41 team in the nation according to the NCAA’s NET rankings.

After that comes Georgia Tech, which is, on paper, the Panthers’ best chance at another win. The Yellow Jackets rank as the No. 152 team in the nation and hold a 9-13 record.

The last three games on the schedule are Miami 17-7 (No. 72), Duke 20-4 (No. 11), and Notre Dame 16-7 (No. 63), which will all be challenging as well.

Capel needs just two more conference wins to match his best mark in conference play since he arrived at Pitt. Will he be able to reach that mark?

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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9 months ago

4 of the remaining 5 games, include teams who need wins to reach the NCAA’s. Though Duke is more about getting a high seed. So GT looks like about it. And we’ll see if Hugley has learned how to find the open man against the double team. Or if this game was just because NC State’s defense is so poor. 314th of 358 teams in Points Allowed.

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9 months ago

Wow, has it been that long, still remember watching that 2014 game, it was Pitt’s first game in the ACC. Pitt trailed large at half, looked like they were overmatched. But things went 180 degrees in the 2nd half, Pitt blew the Wolfpack out and won easy.
That was Pitt’s last good team with Lamar Patterson going off his Senior year.

Dukes

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