Pitt Handles Florida State, 83-75
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the final eight minutes approached in Pittsburgh’s 83-75 win over Florida State, it appeared cold 3-point shooting would once again doom the Panthers to defeat against the Seminoles.
Unlike the first meeting in Pittsburgh, Pitt hadn’t allowed Florida State to take over from behind the arc this time, holding the Seminoles to just 23.8% from deep. But the Panthers again shot well below their season average from deep, allowing the host Seminoles to hang around and put themselves in position to steal a win.
Nike Sibande wasn’t about to let it happen.
With the Panthers clinging to a 58-56 lead and the Seminoles charging, Sibande — who hadn’t hit a shot all game to that point — let fly from behind the arc, finding nothing but the net. Then he did it again on the next possession, and suddenly, the Panthers’ lead was back to six. By the time Sibande was done, he had scored 10 points in just over three minutes, finishing with 12. Florida State never again came closer than five points, allowing Pitt to earn its 11th ACC win of the season, tying a program best on Saturday at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
“I thought our bench guys were unbelievable for us,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “They gave us a big lift and made some big shots for us. Nelly (Cummings) is battling a little bit of an injury, so we wanted to roll with Nike. Nike came in and played really well, and we decided to ride with him for the rest of the game.”
Sibande’s first shot proved to be the catalyst for the Panthers (18-7, 11-3 ACC), in large part because Pitt used the Seminoles’ defensive style against them. The Panthers knew Florida State (8-18, 6-9) liked to switch its defense, potentially leaving a center matched on a guard. When Sibande found himself in that situation, he knew he had plenty of options.
“I saw the mismatch; any time I get a five-man on me, it’s time to dance a bit and play my game,” Sibande said. “My teammates know I’m an iso scorer; they believed in me and I was able to make the shot.”
Pitt struggled again from 3-point range against Florida State’s defense, but this time, it didn’t affect the Panthers’ prospects. To Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, the reason was obvious: Pitt dominated his team on the offensive glass.
The Panthers snagged 15 offensive rebounds, the most they’d had all year against an ACC foe. Pitt turned them into 20 points, more than making up for shooting 32% from behind the arc.
“It’s quite obvious tonight that Pittsburgh displayed more interior toughness than we did,” Hamilton said. “No coach likes to admit that or accept the fact that a team in certain areas wanted to be more successful than your team. But they had 15 offensive rebounds, and once they had offensive rebounds, they were more determined.
“They got 20 points off their 15 offensive rebounds. We got 12 offensive rebounds, but we came away with eight (points). Most of those are close-in shots, where you have to come away with either a foul or a basket.”
But the Seminoles didn’t, while the Panthers routinely did. Even though Florida State won the battle of points in the paint (34 to 26), they couldn’t keep Pitt off the glass when the Panthers missed. That led to Jamarious Burton and Blake Hinson both scoring 19 points despite both shooting under 50% for the game. When the Panthers did miss, they knew that either Federiko Federiko and his game-high 13 rebounds or Guillermo Diaz-Graham (five rebounds) would probably clean up the mess and give them another chance.
“That was big,” Burton said. “The way they play defense, they switch. So if the 5 is guarding me, that gives our bigs an opportunity to get the rebound if I miss, because usually a smaller guard has switched out on them. Fede did a great job understanding his advantage and his positioning.
“He’s also played more minutes, so if I drop, he probably knows where I’m going to miss it. (That’s) understanding, playing with each other, understanding tendencies, and it showed today.”
So did the Panthers’ overall growth on defense. For the fourth time in five games since Florida State’s outburst at the Petersen Events Center, the Panthers held an opponent to less than 37% from behind the arc. The Seminoles might have taken control of the first meeting with hot shooting, but the Panthers didn’t let it happen on Saturday. This time, Darius Green Jr. shot 1-for-8 from deep and Florida State went 5-for-21 as a team, ensuring the Seminoles’ charge fell short and Pitt avoided taking a bad loss.
“We had much more awareness and did a much better job in transition,” Capel said. “Against us there, they really got loose in transition the first half. Our guys had a lot of pride in trying to take Green out, and he also missed some shots he normally makes. I thought we did a really good job in transition.”
Way to go Jeff Capel and team. Big win. Way to battle all the way to the end.
H2P! Im a little surprised how long it’s taken the national media services to realize PITT has a pretty good team. It’s a veteran group with good backcourt players. Nice recipe. With this incoming class of recruits the Panthers could be back for some time to come.
Not to mention hughley, jeffress, and Dior Johnson should all be back next year. The future indeed looks bright for the first time since capel has been here.
The national media wants us to go away but I don’t see that happening. See you Tuesday at the Pete.
In my dreams. Pittsburgh guy in Arizona. But the ACC Network is a great friend. H2P!
We were “Taking care of business. Whoo!!”
Turn it up, PITT!
And Carolina helped out by taking down Clemson, and if Duke can take down Virginia they’ll be atop the conference standings! H2P
Who woulda thunk it? Not me. When Nelly came I was hoping for marginal improvement. We get this…..
After the North Florida, said this was a team to watch. Beyond my expectations, Hail to Pitt.
North Florida game
Preferred Duke losing. Six losses should eliminate them from the conversation for the ACC title. National media was still hoping for a miraculous finish.