PITTSBURGH — Pitt junior forward Blake Hinson played maybe his best game this season against Syracuse on the road on Dec. 20.
Hinson scored a team-high 25 points on 9-for-19 shooting, with 7-for-10 shooting inside the arc. He also led the Panthers with 13 rebounds for a double-double, made four assists, two blocks and a steal in the 84-82 victory.
The 25 points are the second most for Hinson in a game this season, just behind the 27 points he scored against UT Martin the season opener, while the 13 rebounds are tied for the same amount in that UT Martin game.
The ACC awarded Hinson the Conference Co-Player of the Week Award. Hinson shared the honor with Miami fourth-year junior guard Isaiah Wong.
Hinson spoke to media at a press conference on Wednesday. He appreciated the honor, but said that it was a past game and that he’s looking head to the rest of the schedule.
“It’s cool, it’s cool,” Hinson said. “It’s kind of about a performance that was in the past. So that’s kind of in the past, but it’s great to be in a great league and get that honor.”
Pitt found themselves with a sizable advantage over Syracuse in that matchup throughout much of the game. The biggest lead Pitt built was 20 points with 10:45 left in the second half.
The Orange mounted a large comeback that saw them close the lead to one point with 29 seconds left, leaving many Panthers fans with a sick feeling that they would blow an easy win.
Hinson made one steal in the game, which proved crucial, as he took the ball off Orange senior center Jesse Edwards on the second-to-last possession of the game to keep the Panthers in the lead.
Blake Hinson with a massive steal.
Syracuse wanted to go to Edwards inside. pic.twitter.com/BMLbHQ5d7i
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) December 21, 2022
He made a free throw after Edwards intentionally fouled him, putting Pitt up two. After Pitt commit first-year guard Judah Mintz missed the ensuing shot on the next possession, Pitt found themselves victorious.
Hinson praised his team for their willingness to hold onto the lead, despite allowing the Orange to make a such a large comeback.
“That’s what we gotta be if we want to meet the goals that we set for ourselves,” Hinson said. “It’s what comes with it. We’re a good team and they made a good comeback and we held on. That’s what good-on-good is and I’m glad we pulled it out.”
Pitt is now 9-4 on the season and 2-0 in the ACC, the best start in conference play since a 3-0 start in the 2015-16 season under former head coach Jamie Dixon.
The Panthers shot 46.7% from the floor against the Orange, fifth best in a game this season. They also made 13 3-pointers, second most this season, and made 40.6% of their 3-point attempts, third highest in 2022-23.
Hinson said that the Panthers played a good game against the Orange and that the win matters most. He also said that going forward the Panthers are focused on fixing a few things, but focusing on keeping the winning-streak alive.
“I mean, we had a good game,” Hinson said. “We just kind of slipped early, but at the end of the day we won. It’s the same focus points as we always have. Nothing changes. Nothing’s really big out of that game. Couple defensive slip ups we need to fix and that’s it.”
One aspect that Hinson said he and his teammates have improved on is their communication. Pitt distributed the ball well against Syracuse as they created 20 assists, the fourth most in a game this season. They also made 21 assists in the game prior versus North Florida on Dec. 17, which is tied for the second most in a game in 2022-23 with the UT Martin matchup.
“As the season progresses, we’re communicating a lot better,” Hinson said. “It was good from the get, though. It was good from the beginning for a new team. Now we’re starting to be a team that’s been together for a little while. So it’s getting better and better. Man it feels good.”
Capel praised Hinson at the press conference on Wednesday for how loud of a player he is, comparing his vocal abilities to football players, and also just his general attitude around the team.
“Blake’s a football player that plays basketball,” Capel said. “What I mean by that is most football players I know are really loud, like very loud. He’s full of personality. There’s never really a dull moment around him. He loves to compete. He’s so grateful to be a part of something and be here and to have people that believe him. Obviously, the success has just made it even more special.”
Capel also congratulated Hinson on the ACC Co-Player of the Week honor. He is the third player to earn the honor under Capel in his five season as head coach starting in 2018. Former forward Justin Champagnie earned the honor three times as a sophomore in the 2020-21 season and then former guard Femi Odukale (2020-22) won the award last season.
He spoke on Hinson’s ability to improve the team around him and that he is glad he brought him to the program after not playing for over two seasons.
“Unbelievable teammate,” Capel said. “Unbelievable guy to be around. Those are two things I didn’t know before we got him. I knew that he was a good guy, but again he hadn’t played in two years. If I go by the way everyone judges people then I maybe wouldn’t have anyone on my team.”