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Pitt Basketball

Five Takeaways: Nelly Cummings Chose the Right Game to Break Out

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Nelly Cummings chose a great night to break out.

Throughout Pitt’s first seven games of the season, Cummings struggled to get in rhythm on either side of the ball. While he did post two games of 11 points early on in the year, he came into the game shooting just 20% from three-point range and averaging almost three turnovers per game.

However, on Monday night, in Pitt’s first true road game of the season, Cummings broke out with a 17-point, six assist effort in Pitt’s lopsided 87-58 victory over a 5-1 Northwestern squad. It was the start of a crucial, crucial three-game series for the Panthers on the road and could not have come at a better time for Capel’s Panthers.

“It was outstanding,” Jeff Capel said about Cummings’ performance. “We were hoping it was a matter of time. He’s a really good player, he hadn’t shot the ball well this year. He’s played well, but he hadn’t shot the ball well. He was able to make some shots, but also he controlled the game getting a sense of stuff, making good decisions, and being strong with the basketball.”

“I think we were just connected from the beginning,” Cummings said after the game. ‘I wanted to come out and be defensive minded early, and once I got a few charges early, I think it just ignited me and allowed me to have the type of game that I had.

Cummings drew a charging foul along with multiple illegal screen fouls early in the first half, kickstarting his offensive success. After he hit his first bucket almost ten minutes in, he never looked back.

“It was nice. It was fun, definitely, to make shots,” he continued. “But I think all of that just started with the energy that we had. Just the energy that the ball had. When the ball is moving the way that it was moving today, we’re going to make shots.”

LONG-AWAITED THREE-POINT BARRAGE SINKS THE ‘CATS

All season long, Pitt has struggled to shoot from three-point range, despite adding several talented three-point shooters from the transfer portal and attempting many threes early this season.

However, they finally started to fall in Monday’s win.

Pitt hit 14 of its 22 three-point tries in the win. Blake Hinson squared up from all over the floor and hit four of his five tries. Greg Elliott, Nike Sibande, and Nelly Cummings each knocked down three apiece.

Even while big man John Hugley struggled to get going down low, Pitt was firing on all cylinders from the outside in a great sign for the team.

HINSON STILL SHINING

Pitt’s leading scorer on the year Blake Hinson just continues to deliver for the Panthers.

On Monday, he hit five of is nine field-goal tries, along with four of his five three-point attempts and eight of his 11 free throws.

“He makes a huge impact on the floor for us everywhere,” Capel said. “Offensively, scoring, he’s become a better defender, he can stretch the floor for us, I thought he made some good drives, passes today. And certainly on the offensive glass. He’s physical and has a knack for the ball.

Hinson also grabbed eight rebounds, six offensively, and dished out five assists in the victory.

“Coach Jason Capel makes sure that I stay on the boards and the rest of my position group,” Hinson said about his offensive rebounding performance. “I’m sure I made him proud with that.”

PANTHERS TOOK CARE OF THE BALL

In Monday night’s win, Pitt totaled a season-low nine turnovers.

Importantly, Cummings only turned the ball over twice, while Jamarius Burton turned in another efficient performance, adding on 14 points, seven assists, and just one giveaway (which occurred early in the first half).

If Pitt is going to play games like this throughout the season, it’s a recipe for success.

PITT WON THE FIRST, NOW KEEP IT GOING

The Panthers have a crucial next two games, with both coming on the road against top-80 competition.

This first win against Northwestern was huge. Now comes NC State on Friday, led by potent scorers Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner. After that, a matchup at Vanderbilt awaits. Pitt’s through one, and now has a serious chance to make some noise if it wins these next two before diving into the full conference slate.

“When we get back together on Wednesday, we’ll flush this. We’ve got to move on to the next play. And that’s getting ready for NC State. We have another road win, it’s our first conference [game], they’re a really good team, so hopefully we can build on this.”

Pitt will take on NC State at 7 p.m. on Friday night in Raleigh on ACC Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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