PITTSBURGH — On Saturday afternoon in a strong all-around offensive performance from Pitt, Greg Elliott once again showed off his much-needed three-point shooting ability.
Pitt took down Sacred Heart by a score of 91-66 as four Panthers — including Elliott — scored at least 17 points.
“I think Greg is a guy whose energy is contagious,” Nelly Cummings said. “So, anytime he’s making shots, we all feel like we can make shots. He’s a great teammate, great shooter. So anytime he’s going like that, we feel like all of us can do that.”
Elliott’s sharp-shooting excellence has proven invaluable to Pitt (7-4) so far this season. He has scored at least 18 points in three of his last four games. He is currently leading the Panthers with 24 three pointers made on the season, and is shooting 41% from beyond the arch on the year. For a team that has lacked production down low and has seen its guards struggle at times, it feels as though every three he hits is a big one for the Panthers.
“He’s huge for us, he’s huge for us,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said about Elliott after the game. “The main thing is, like you heard Nelly say, he brings great energy, he’s a great teammates, he’s incredibly positive He understands who he is. Doesn’t try to do things that he can’t do, and throughout his career he’s been a really good shooter. He’s been a plus-40 [percent] from three-point range shooter throughout his career, and he’s done a really good job for us the past few games.”
NELLY CUMMINGS STAYS HOT
Pittsburgh’s own Nelly Cummings shined again on Saturday, scoring a team-high 24 points while also adding six rebounds, five assists, and four steals to his impressive stat line.
Cummings’ recent emergence as a scoring threat has been crucial to the Panthers. One of the biggest transfer portal additions of the offseason is paying off for the Panthers, as he has turned in solid all-around efforts all year, and especially as of late.
“It’s just as simple as getting comfortable, making shots, being here longer than a few games,” Cummings said. “I’ve had a chance to get comfortable. That’s just a product of being in the gym a lot.”
ANOTHER SLOW START AGAINST BOTTOM-TIER OPPONENT
Pitt pulled away in the second half to head into its week-long break with a victory and a 7-4 overall record. However, for the majority of the first half and parts of the second half, things didn’t always look swell for the Panthers.
Sacred Heart came into the game with a 5-5 record, having lost its past two games to UMass Lowell and Fairfield. The Pioneers are ranked as the No. 294 team in the country per Kenpom.com and No. 279 team according to NET rankings. Their biggest player was listed at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds.
On paper, this one should not have been close from the start. The Panthers were without Jamarius Burton (knee), but still had more power, more experience, and more overall talent than this SHU team. However, Pitt once again came out and struggled in the first half.
Pitt hit just four of its 16 three-point attempts and turned the ball over seven times, taking a five-point lead into the half. Heading into ACC play shortly, first-half production will surely be something to watch as the Panthers will not be able to dig themselves any holes. against better competition.
FEDERIKO FEDERIKO FILLING IN NICELY
Pitt looked to Federiko Federiko on Saturday, as the Finnish big man earned his fifth start of the season in place of last year’s leading scorer John Hugley.
In the start, Federiko did what needed to be done against a severely undersized team. The 6-foot-11 big took on Sacred Heart’s forwards and played above the rim all game, posting 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, with ten of those boards coming offensively.
While his performance was impressive, Federiko certainly has a big challenge in the near future with ACC play coming up. The Panthers’ young big will have his hands full, but has so far shown that he can use his speed, length, and athleticism to fill the “dunker” role perfectly for the Panthers while Hugley gets back to speed.
SACRED HEART HC, CAPEL TALK ABOUT HUGLEY’S STATUS
Pitt’s John Hugley has struggled to gain momentum this season after posting an All-ACC honorable mention campaign a year ago. Those struggles continued on Saturday, as the 6-foot-9 big man posted a two-point, five-rebound stat line and came off the bench for the Panthers.
After the game, both Capel and Sacred Heart head coach Anthony Latina broke down each big man’s performances on Saturday.
“Honestly, Hugley is. terrific player, but he’s not the player he’s going to be yet,” Latina said. “He’s working his way from his injury. To be honest, when they started Federiko, for us, we are like, ‘Oh my God, this could be a lot.’ One of the things Hugley is struggling with right now is to guard. Now you put a guy that’s been a liability defensively and a guy who makes it impossible to score on him at the rim, and then his offensive rebounding, so, it actually — now again, long term, Hugley is a borderline all-conference player when he gets in shape. I actually thought it was a negative for us because the kid is so athletic, he’s so long, he probably can get away with some things against us that he might not be able to do in the ACC, and the guy had ten offensive rebounds.”
Hugley, who suffered a knee injury weeks before the start of the season, has looked uncomfortable since he’s been back. Although he had an impressive three-game stretch during Thanksgiving week in which he scored in double digits three times, Hugley has now scored zero, two, eight, and two points in his last four games, respectively.
“Because of the way our schedule is set, we haven’t had a lot of practice time,” Capel mentioned. “We’ve had some, we haven’t had a lot. He [Hugley] is getting better, I thought he was better today, I thought he was better today. It’s really hard when, for six weeks, maybe for a couple hours, or a few hours a day, you can bend your knee. He was in a brace for six weeks. I think the last week, the sixth week, he could bend it a little bit, they took some tension out of the brace.”
“Then you come and your first game is against Michigan. The way our schedule has been set, we haven’t had a lot of, with the way we’ve had injuries and trying to manage that, we haven’t been able to do a lot of five-on-five in practice. I thought he did a better job today.”
Hugley and the Panthers now have a much-needed week off before they take on North Florida next Saturday at the Petersen Events Center.