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Pitt Basketball

Five Takeaways: Nike Sibande’s Emergence Has Been Massive for Pitt

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Throughout the first half of the Pitt hoops season, its starting guards — Nelly Cummings, Jamarius Burton, and Greg Elliott — were the big stories in the back court for the Panthers.

However, as of late, a fourth guard — Nike Sibande — has established himself as an offensive nightmare for the opposition.

Sibande scored a season-high points in Pitt’s win on Saturday afternoon over Georgia Tech, 70-61.

Sibande, coming off the bench, opened the game with 14 points in the first half, creating in one-on-one opportunities and getting where he wanted, when he wanted. He hit three of his four three-point attempts in that first half as well.

In the second half, Sibande added seven points, including an and-one finish to snap a Pitt cold streak and put the nail in the coffin in this one.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL

In the win, Pitt took care of the ball as well as it has all year long, only turning the ball over three times (season-best).

Despite having just five assists on its 24 made baskets, Pitt looked to transition opportunities, isolation situations, and the free-throw line for its offensive success.

Aside from Sibande’s game-high 21 points, Pitt looked to Jamarius Burton (19 points, 2 assists, one turnover), Blake Hinson (13 points), and Nelly Cummings (11 points, two assists) to take care of the ball and provide offensive firepower.

Nike Sibande Explodes for 21, Leads Pitt Over Georgia Tech, 71-60

PANTHERS OUT-REBOUNDED AGAIN

Pitt has looked to Federiko Federiko and Guillermo Diaz-Graham for inside help this season, and the youngsters have done their best holding down the paint in the absence of John Hugley, last season’s leading scorer and rebounder for the Panthers.

However, with Hugley now out for the season, the thin front court has a lot more weight on its shoulders, and on Saturday afternoon, Georgia Tech took advantage of Pitt’s lack of size and strength inside.

The Yellow Jackets outrebounded the Panthers 40-35 in the afternoon matchup, with 14 of their boards coming on the offensive end. They then turned those offensive boards into 19 second-chance points, keeping them in the game while Pitt struggled to pull away.

Coming into the game, Georgia Tech only had three players averaging more than five rebounds per game. The Jackets looked to guard Deivon Smith (6-foot-1) for a great game on the boards, as he hauled in 11 rebounds over Pitt’s bigs. 6-foot-11 big Rodney Howard, who came in averaging less than five rebounds per game, grabbed ten rebounds in the matchup.

BURTON CONTINUES RIDICULOUS CONFERENCE RUN

Over Pitt’s last two games, Jamarius Burton has jumped into the top spot on the team in terms of points per game.

Burton is averaging 16.7 points per game this season, in his fifth playing college hoops. The lead guard is shooting 53% from the field, as well as 42% from three-point range.

Burton has been at his best when driving and using his physical frame and play style to bully smaller guards. Especially in conference play, He has, at times, taken over games with his consistent jump shot and driving ability. In Saturday afternoon’s victory, Burton had ten points in the first half and nine in the second, turning in another complete performance.

In conference play, he is now averaging 20.3 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 54% from the field, 42% from three, and 89% from the free-throw line.

Watch Burton’s latest episode of the Just Buckets Podcast on PSN below.

TAKING CARE OF THE BAD TEAMS

While Georgia Tech did put up a fight in Saturday’s matchup, it was important for Pitt to get back on track and take care of business against one of the ACC’s worst squads.

The Panthers comfortably beat Georgia Tech for yet another ACC road win, sending the Yellow Jackets to 1-6 in the ACC this year.

Louisville is up next, and the Cardinals are having perhaps their worst season in history, currently sitting at 2-16 (0-7 ACC). Pitt will tip off against the Cardinals at 7 p.m. on ACC Network. Then comes Florida State, who is 5-13 (3-4 ACC). Pitt should take care of both of these teams, even though road conference games are never a cake walk.

Regardless, if the Panthers want to stay in the NCAA Tournament discussion, they must get through these easier stretches in conference play.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Pittband
Pittband
11 days ago

When is the conference leader going to be ranked? Clemson is 7 – 0 and 15 – 3. Beat Pitt, beat Duke when both were ranked. Talk about reputation, Duke is ranked, UVA is ranked, Miami is ranked and they all have two losses in conference with Duke having three.

T Vax
T Vax
11 days ago
Reply to  Pittband

doesn’t the poll come out today?

Joe
Joe
11 days ago

Those who do rankings apparently have not adjusted to the effects of the transfer portal. And have never shown they can adjust to new kids on the block.

TJ
TJ
11 days ago

I like his game and expect that we will see more minutes from him based on match-ups. What is nice this year is that there is someone else (or two) to step-up if the other guys are having off nights.

Cignetti & Friends
Cignetti & Friends
11 days ago

Hinson has to do a better job of rebounding and also get more aggressive with inside offense. As the announcers always drool over his TE football physique…but he seems content with throwing up shots mostly from the perimeter. And 4 rebounds for the game ain’t cutting it.

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