Five Takeaways: Panthers Prove They Belong with Win Over No. 20 Miami
PITTSBURGH — On Saturday afternoon, Pitt basketball won its biggest game in years in front of the Panthers’ first sellout crowd since 2019.
The Panthers took down No. 20 Miami in comeback fashion, using a late 11-0 run to come out on top with a 71-68 win.
Several moments stand out from the second half. Moments in which Pitt could have folded, but didn’t. Last year’s team would have folded. The team from two years back too. But this year’s team has separated itself all year and earned the fanbase’s support back.
“You’ve just gotta keep fighting,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “If they hit a tough shot, don’t drop your head and whatever, just come back. There’s another fight that will probably happen within the next 30 seconds, and we have to win that one. If you carry the previous one over, then it’s going to affect you. We need to be present all the time, every play.”
Whether it was a foul call that the team disagreed with or a big bucket off the hands of the Hurricanes, Pitt battled through and came out with a massive win. With the win, Pitt moved into third place in the ACC and improved its record to 15-7 and 8-3 in conference play.
THE KILL SHOT
With 15 minutes to go, Pitt trailed by six after a Nelly Cummings three went in. Momentum started to increase, and the crowd’s energy elevated. However, Miami would not ease up. Isaiah Wong quickly responded with a two-pointer on the other end, quieting the Pitt crowd. Practically every time Pitt scored, the Hurricanes would answer.
“One of the things we talked about, was, we can’t get deflated if they hit tough shots,” Capel said. “They have tough shot makers, and Wong did that. But we kept fighting and challenging them. At the end, JB came up with a big-time steal. Even the last play, 7.1 seconds, we have the ball, and we turn it over. And again, we didn’t get deflated. They guy that turned it over got the steal, got fouled, made two free throws to make it a three-point game. That’s who we’ve been all year. My hope is that that’s who we continue to be, and I’m really proud of this team.”
From ten minutes left to two minutes left, every time Pitt scored, Miami scored next. Pitt could not stack points and stops together. However, Pitt’s scores were worth three, and the Hurricanes were worth just two. Pitt caught fire from deep, as Hinson hit two threes in that span and Elliott hit one. No matter how hard Miami tried to fend off the comeback, Pitt just would not go away.
Enter the kill shot.
A metric tracked by Evan Miyakawa, a “Kill Shot” occurs when a team goes on a 10-0 run at any point in a game. According to Miyakawa, when a team has at least one 10-0 run in a game, that team has a 71% chance of winning. Luckily for Pitt, it’s kill shot came at the perfect time.
Down by eight with 2:26 to go, Pitt took home the emphatic victory as Federiko threw in a dunk, Hinson hit another three, Cummings hit a floater, Hinson hit a layup, and Elliott closed out the win with two good free throws. Pitt’s best run came at an ideal time, and the atmosphere in the Petersen Events Center cheered as loud as it has in years as the buzzer sounded to mark the Panthers’ triumph.
PITT’S STARS SHINED
Blake Hinson hit five threes, with two of them coming in the final six minutes. In the second half, he scored 14 points, hit four of his eight three-point attempts, and grabbed five big rebounds. He finished with a team-high 21 in the win. Jamarius Burton did it all, racking up a near triple-double stat line. Burton scored 19 points, grabbed ten rebounds, and dished out seven assists, earning his second double-double in the Panthers’ past four games.
Greg Elliott hit two of his six three-point attempts, as well as all five of his free-throw tries, for 11 points. He also grabbed four boards and had two assists in the win. Federiko Federiko scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked four shots for Pitt. Nelly Cummings scored nine and dished out two assists.
The starters showed up and showed out in front of a crazy atmosphere.
“The Oakland Zoo man, y’all are part of the team, for real,” Hinson said after the game. “I know how it feels to be on the opposite side of that. It was rocking, I knew we had the momentum, and that’s what it felt like. So you play with confidence next time you go out there.”
GANG REBOUNDING WORKING FOR PITT
Pitt does not have much size down low, which most would think translates to being a poor rebounding team.
Federiko Federiko stands at 6-foot-11, 220 pounds. While he is a big body with tremendous length, he is still only averaging 5.6 rebounds per game. Pitt’s best rebounder is Blake Hinson, averaging more than six per outing. However, Hinson, who plays the wing, is just 6-foot-7 and has been tasked with guarding other team’s bigs quite often.
On Saturday, it was Burton — a 6-foot-4 guard — who led the team, and entire game, in rebounds at ten. He tallied his second double double in four games, and was the only player on either team to grab double-digit boards.
Pitt’s focus on “gang rebounding” has been huge for the smaller Panthers all year, and once again helped them come out on top on Saturday. Pitt out-rebounded the Hurricanes 39-30, and on the offensive glass, Pitt grabbed 12 to Miami’s one.
“We’ve talked about it, we’ve talked about it over and over,” Capel said about the team’s focus on offensive rebounding. “It’s hard for us to practice it, just because of the limited bodies and guys playing high minutes, I just think our guys are cognizant of it, and we’ve done a better job of blocking out.””
BURTON’S IMPACT FELT ON BOTH ENDS
Burton collected his second double-double of the season on Saturday, leading the team in rebounds with ten and dropping 19 points in the win.
“One of the things that happens is you try to exploit matchups,” Miami’s Jim Larrañaga said. “And Burton was really effective at getting in the paint. Even if he missed, Federiko was there for the offensive stick back.”
In the second half, Burton scored 11 points, hit his lone three-point try, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out five assists with just one turnover.
“He impacts it even when he’s not scoring,” Capel said of Burton. “He distributes, his leadership, his toughness, his willingness to get off the basketball, to pass it, his competitive spirit, what he does for us defensively. I’m really, really happy for him because he’s a guy that wants to be good, wants to be a part of something from the time he’s gotten here, and it’s great to see his leadership being accepted and respected by the guys on this team.”
Burton and the Panthers will look to continue their hot streak on Wednesday against North Carolina at the Dean Dome. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. on ACC Network.
Wong shot 38 per cent from the field.
I was worried after he got those free throws he was gonna find his rhythm. He did to an extent, but he couldn’t get around Hinson on switches which is odd, but oh well. I was there and when Burton got the steal The Pete exploded
I’ve watch Pitt mbb since December 1970 as a freshman. I can’t say I can remember a more implausible ending. I remember losing an 11-point lead at ND in the last 55-seconds but scoring the last 11. Congratulations.
Great win … now let’s get another W from the tarheels.
I like our position in the conference standings and we should have an easier schedule against current top half to finish out .. Pitt ( Carolina & Miami), Virginia (NCSt, Duke, Carolina & Clemson), UNC (Pitt, Dukex2, Wake, Uva, Clemson & Miami), Miami (Pitt, Clemson, Duke, Carolina & Wake), NC State (Virginia, Carolina, Clemson, Wake & Duke) and Duke (Wake, Carolinax2, Virginia, Miami and NCState).
Plus, we have the tiebreakers against Virginia, NCState and Wake.