Finals week has come to an end for the Pitt Panthers and the conclusion of non-conference play is next in sight. Pitt hosts North Florida at the Petersen Events Center before ACC competition begins in full swing.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (7-4) matchup against the North Florida Ospreys (3-6) of the ASUN.
Heavy on Hinson
Blake Hinson exploded on the scene at Pitt as a dynamic scorer capable of contributing in multiple different aspects. The junior forward did not participate during the past two seasons while at Iowa State, but the two years away from on-court competition hasn’t plagued his performance.
“Really, I had no expectations coming into this season,” Hinson told PSN’s George Michalowski. “I still have no expectations, honestly, I just play hard. I expect myself to play hard and be competitive and that’s how I felt coming into this season. Nothing shocking going on in my opinion, but either way, it’s just playing basketball, and that’s what I came to do.”
Hinson played his freshman year at Ole Miss before transferring to Iowa State, not playing his first year due to an undisclosed medical condition. Hinson ranks first on the Panthers in points (16.4), rebounds (7), steals (1.1), and usage percentage (24.7%). He is shooting over 48% while playing more than 30 minutes per game. Hinson’s emergence has sharpened the offensive attack and explosiveness on the floor.
Bigs to the Floor
Stepping into the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 20, Federiko Federiko registered his first double-double against Sacred Heart last Saturday. Facing an undersized team compared to Federiko at 6-foot-11, the Panthers’ center totaled 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes. He recorded a double-double alone in the number of offensive boards he battled to secure, marking 10 of his 14 rebounds as additional offensive opportunities.
Federiko could experience similar success against North Florida as John Hugley was relegated to the bench and only played 11 minutes. Jorge Diaz Graham played 25 minutes and missed 5-of-6 shots but added five points, four rebounds, and three assists. Hugley’s struggles since returning from injury are making an impact on playing time. He did not record a rebound the past two games against Vanderbilt and NC State before totaling two facing Northwestern. Hugley responded with five against Sacred Heart.
Jamarius Burton missed the game due to a knee injury and opened the door for others to step up, including Federiko. In the final tune-up before ACC play, the Panthers have one more shot to continue chemistry building before meeting Syracuse on Tuesday.
North Florida Report
The North Florida Ospreys enter the Petersen Events Center following previous competition against high-quality teams. The Ospreys opened the season against No. 2 Gonzaga in a 104-63 loss in Spokane, Washington. They followed it up with a 75-67 defeat to Washington four days later in Seattle. Duquesne defeated North Florida 83-82 at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in the final seconds, No. 15 Kentucky beat them by 40 the day before Thanksgiving, and the Ospreys lost to No. 1 Houston 76-42 two weeks ago.
Needless to say, North Florida has faced a plethora of top talent and three of the favorites to win the national title. The Ospreys are paced by three by guard Jarius Hicklen, averaging team-highs in points (14.4) and minutes (31.3). Forward Carter Hendricksen placed second in points (13.8) while first in rebounds (5.8) and usage percentage (25.6%). Guard Jose Placer also scores over 10 points per game.
North Florida ranks tied for 53rd in pace (71.5) and 44th overall in the county making three-point field goals (9.2). The team turns the ball over close to 15 times a game – making the matchup one of the few times the opponent enters averaging more than Pitt – while the Panthers could take advantage of the rebounding battle. Fighting on the offensive glass will be something to keep an eye on for Pitt to capitalize on second-chance points.
Pitt is favored by 13.5 points in Saturday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line has remained steady since opening at 13.5.
The Panthers are 7-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and continue on a roll of covering the spread. Pitt covered the past six games in a row against Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, Northwestern, NC State, Vanderbilt, and Sacred Heart. The Ospreys are 4-4 ATS and the over has been reached in four opportunities.
The over/under for the game is set at 147 points. Pitt is -975 on the money line with North Florida the underdogs at +675. The over has hit in seven of the Panthers’ matchups and reached the plateau in the past two games. Pitt has won four home games in a row and 5-1 in non-conference.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt-North Florida matchup will air on the ACC Network beginning at 1:00 p.m. Robert Lee and Perry Clark have the call from the Petersen Events Center. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt begins the heart of ACC play Tuesday night at 9 p.m. facing Syracuse inside the Carrier Dome.