PITTSBURGH — In Monday night’s victory over UT Martin, Pitt dominated on both sides of the ball.
However, one side of the ball specifically stood out to Panthers’ head coach Jeff Capel.
“I thought this is the best that we have played defensively since our group has been together,” Capel said after the game. “We have been working on it. We displayed it tonight. I thought we followed the game plan, I thought we played with incredible energy on that end.”
Pitt out-rebounded UT Martin 51 to 41 on the night. The Panthers blocked ten shots to UT Martin’s two and racked up six steals as well. Overall, Pitt forced 17 turnovers from the Skyhawks. UT Martin shot just 32% from the field and hit just three of its 19 three-point attempts (16%) in the loss.
Federiko Federiko led the defensive effort from the paint, blocking three shots and grabbing seven boards in his division one debut.
“I think a big reason is the guy to my left [Federiko Federiko],” he continued. “I thought Federiko’s energy to start the game defensively, his talk, his ball-screen coverages, his rotations, protecting the basket, I thought that kind of became contagious for everyone out there. So, we really did a good job on that side of the basketball today.”
Jamarius Burton led the way with two steals. Reserves Jorge Diaz-Graham and Nike Sibande both also blocked two shots in the winning effort for the Panthers.
BLAKE HINSON PROVES IT IN REGULAR SEASON OPENER
As if Blake Hinson had not shown enough promise with a combined 49 points in Pitt’s two preseason exhibitions, he surely grabbed everyone’s attention on Monday night when he posted a tremendous stat line in the Panthers’ regular season opener.
Hinson hit nine of his 18 shot attempts for a 27-point outing in his Pitt debut. The 6-foot-7, powerful wing hit four three pointers, drained five of his six free-throw tries, and also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in the double-double performance. The former Ole Miss standout drew nine fouls from the Skyhawks as well.
FEDERIKO SHOWING GOOD SIGNS
Although the Panthers were without John Hugley (knee injury) for their exhibition games and for game one on Monday, they were able to receive inside production from Federiko Federiko on the offensive side of the ball in all three contests.
After dropping two double-doubles in the exhibition wins, Federiko went six for seven from the field on Monday night, finishing with 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking three shots. Although he was not expected to be ACC-ready upon arrival to Pitt, Federiko has certainly looked as though he can compete at the Division One level as just a sophomore coming out of junior college last year.
The 6-foot-11 big man from Finland has done his job as a rim-runner on the offensive end well, catching lobs from Pitt’s guards, running the floor, and executing in the pick and roll effectively.
“We’ve got great guards,” Federiko said after his Pitt debut. “They’re finding me. I just do my part, I screen, I roll, I am a threat under the basket, that’s it.”
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) November 8, 2022
UNFORTUNATE HOMECOMING FOR PARKER STEWART
Monday night’s game served as a homecoming for Parker Stewart, the former Panther who played for Pitt during the 2017-18 season out of high school.
Stewart played 23 minutes in Monday night’s game, before being ejected early in the second half after a scuffle with Pitt’s Blake Hinson earned him two flagrant fouls. Stewart finished with nine points and three rebounds.
After playing for Pitt, Stewart transferred to UT Martin to play for his father, Anthony Stewart, who coached the Skyhawks. He played there during the 2019-20 season after sitting out one season due to transfer rules. However, the next season, Stewart’s father, Anthony, tragically passed away. Parker then transferred to Indiana for one season. Then, this offseason, he transferred back to UT Martin. After Monday night’s game, Stewart stands nine points away from 1,000 career points in college.
“From a basketball standpoint, from a program standpoint, I think it means a lot to us because no one can pretend to put themselves in that kid’s shoes,” UT Martin head coach Ryan Ridder said. “He’s had a tough last couple of years, and that is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. He makes a decision to come back and play for his dad, and ultimately, I am the guy that takes over for his dad due to a tragic death. He is going to have some emotional ups and downs, but that is a high-character young man that understands that there is more to life than basketball.”
HUGLEY JUST CLEARED, HASN’T PRACTICED AT ALL
After Monday night’s win, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel addressed the status of star big man John Hugley ahead of Friday’s Backyard Brawl contest against West Virginia.
“He wasn’t close to playing tonight,” Capel said about Hugley. “There was no way he was going to play tonight. He got cleared, he’ll start doing on-the-court stuff, so we’ll get in the gym with him tomorrow probably on an individual basis. The biggest thing is that John has not played, he has not done anything for, I think it’s been six weeks. He got hurt the last Friday of the first week of practice. So I don’t know the exact date, we started on the 26th, that was Monday, so whatever date that Friday was, that’s when he got hurt. He has not done anything since then, so the biggest thing with him is going to see how he responds to after workouts, and then getting him in game shape. Those are going to be the two biggest issues.”
Hugley earned all-ACC honors last season after averaging 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore. In addition to Hugley’s update, Capel also included that junior Will Jeffress will be in a boot until Monday (foot injury) and will therefore miss the game against West Virginia.
The Panthers take on West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl on Friday, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. from the Petersen Events Center.