Five Takeaways: Pitt’s Toughness Wears Down Another ACC Opponent in Blowout of Louisville
PITTSBURGH — In Tuesday night’s dominant 91-57 win over Louisville, many plays could have been categorized as the play of the game for the Panthers.
From alley-oops to deep threes, the Panthers were firing on all cylinders en route to a 34-point dominant win. However, for the opposing head coach — Louisville’s Kenny Payne — the most telling play of them all was one that occurred after the whistle.
“When the play happened when the big guy threw Mike James to the floor, that’s what they live for,” Payne said about Pitt. “It wasn’t really a dirty play, and if it was, it’s competitiveness. And I watched their huddle as they huddled up after that play, and I saw what I want my guys to be. I want my guys to be tough like that, to fight like that, to be one like that.”
Payne is describing a play that occurred with just under 17 minutes remaining in which Pitt’s Federiko Federiko was tangled up with Mike James and swung around, throwing James towards the floor. After the foul was called on Federiko, James shot back up and got right in the face of the Finnish sophomore with aggression in his eyes.
Federiko stood his ground and appeared to say something back to James as the two began to scuffle in the corner after the foul. Before anything could escalate, Pitt’s veterans Greg Elliott, Blake Hinson, and Nelly Cummings all stepped in and pulled the young big man back, forming a team huddle.
Kenny Payne praised Pitt for its reaction to this play:
“I watched their huddle as they huddled up after that play, and I saw what I want my guys to be. I want my guys to be tough like that, to fight like that, to be one like that."
By @AustinRBechtold: https://t.co/cuQKwZhiwK pic.twitter.com/sL8Nxn22w5
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) February 8, 2023
“We’ve played a lot of good teams in this conference, but guys I am just here to tell you that probably the most complete, the toughest team that we have played in this conference is Pittsburgh,” Payne said after the game. “Tough, fight, can score, can score a multitude of ways. They share, they share the ball. They talk on defense. When one guy is down, I hear four others talking to that one that’s down.”
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM EVERYWHERE
After getting off to a 14-14 start in the first half, Pitt pulled away with a 24-3 run seven minutes into the first half.
Four Panthers hit at least three three pointers, with Greg Elliott and Nike Sibande leading the way with four triples apiece. Cummings and Hinson added three threes each, and those two also combined for nine assists.
Seemingly every player that saw the floor contributed for the Panthers in the blowout. Burton had eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Jorge Diaz-Graham added eight points, four blocks, and three boards. His brother, Guillermo, had a career-night, dropping 11 points, blocking five shots, and grabbing five rebounds. Nate Santos scored seven off the bench, and Federiko finished with six points and three blocks.
Pitt also set a season high with 23 assists on the night as well. Cummings and Elliott each had six, while Hinson and Burton followed with three dimes apiece.
“Obviously we made shots, we shared the basketball,” Jeff Capel said. “I think at halftime, I think we had 14 assists on 16 made field goals, and for the game, to have 23 assists on 28 made field goals, we played the right way. We shared the ball, and the ball had energy.”
CAPEL PROUD OF ENERGY FOLLOWING TIME OFF
Prior to the game against Louisville, Pitt had six days without competition dating back to its most recent game against North Carolina last week.
“Really proud of our team’s performance today after being off since last week and not having competition,” Capel said. “As a coach, I was really concerned. I thought the first four minutes, our defense wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be. I thought that’s what it was because of.”
It did not take long for the Panthers to tighten up their defense and allow the offense to go to work. Pitt held Louisville to just 8-for-27 shooting in the first half, including just 4-for-14 shooting from three-point range.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
Heading into Tuesday’s game against Louisville, Pitt had seven games remaining on the schedule and just one against Quad 1 competition.
The Panthers took care of business against the worst team on the schedule — the Cardinals — and now face two more teams ranked outside the top 180 in the NET before traveling to Virginia Tech in mid-February (No. 50 NET).
Bracketologist Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News recently caught up with PSN to discuss Pitt’s tournament chances.
“The first thing you want to do as Pitt is win the games you’re supposed to win,” DeCourcy added. “That’s your No. 1 objective at this point. Would it help to get another Quad 1 win or two? Of course, those things are gold. But the No. 1 assignment is — you already dropped one of those (Quad 4 losses), you can’t do one or two more.”
DIAZ-GRAHAM TWINS HAVE THEIR MOMENT
In Tuesday night’s win, Guillermo and Jorge Diaz-Graham played perhaps the best games of their young careers in a Pitt uniform.
Guillermo led the way with 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting, while also hitting two three pointers. He also swatted away a game-high five blocks, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out two assists. His brother, Jorge, followed closely behind with eight points of his own, hitting all six of his free throws, swatting away four shots, and grabbing three rebounds of his own.
The twins combined for four assists in the win, with one specific set-up standing out above all.
“I think it was really fun,” Jorge said. Sharing the court with my brother is really fun. That last play of the game, I gave him the three, he made it, That was really, it was like a dream you have. Playing with your brother, making plays in front of an awesome crowd. I’m really happy with it.”
After Jorge hit a layup the possession prior, the next time down the floor, Jorge drove into traffic late in the second half and kicked the ball out to guess who? His twin brother Guillermo, who was ready to hit his second three of the game and put a stamp on Pitt’s blowout victory.
“I think we all have more joy when a teammate makes a basket than our own basket,” Guillermo said. “The whole team. I think we all enjoy when someone makes a play, makes a basket more than when we do it ourselves.
The twins were fun to watch last night. One sequence stood out. Louisville got a turnover and pushed the ball up the court for a seemingly easy layup. First one twin swatted the shot and then the other got involved. I counted four blocks before Pitt was able to gain possession. They protect each other and feed off the other.
Great performance. One qtr at a time.. one game at a time. Sharpen, tighten hail PITT