Five Takeaways: Miami Kills Pitt on the Glass to Escape with ACC Regular Season Title
CORAL GABLES, Fla. —Pitt is now 0-7 on the year when it totals less than 31 rebounds in a game.
In the Panthers’ loss to Miami on Saturday night, they grabbed a season-worst 20 rebounds compared to Miami’s 42. The Hurricanes dominated the boards, led by Norchad Omier’s 13 rebounds. Jordan Miller grabbed eight and Isaiah Wong grabbed six as well. All three of those players had at least three offensive boards apiece. For Pitt, Nike Sibande grabbed a team-best five rebounds. None of the forwards grabbed more than three rebounds. It was a disaster on the glass, and it led to the Hurricanes finding easy buckets throughout the close battle and coming out with the 78-76 win.
“They really dominated the glass, and I thought that was really the thing that decided the game,” Capel continued. “I just think they dominated the glass. They made us pay just about every time they got offensive rebounds. They got loose balls, they just made plays.”
Miami’s rebounding success led to easy buckets all night against Pitt. The Hurricanes scored a whopping 25 second-chance points, compared to Pitt’s seven.
No. 25 Pitt Comes up Short in Battle for First Place in ACC, Falls to No. 16 Miami 78-76
VALIANT EFFORT COMES UP SHORT
Jeff Capel’s instant reaction to the crushing loss on Saturday night was not anger, it was pride.
“I’m really proud of the effort and fight that our guys displayed,” Capel said in his opening statement. “To come down on the road against a really good team, I thought we gave a championship performance, championship effort, we just came up a little bit short.”
After a back-and-forth boxing match throughout the first 30 minutes of the game, it finally felt as though one side was pulling away when Miami built its lead to a game-high nine with 8:05 to go. However, Pitt would just not go away.
Pitt kept the ball out of the basket defensively late in the second frame in an effort to come back and win it. From the 11-minute mark to the 5:32 mark in the second half, Miami did not hit a field goal. Pitt’s defense held strong and gave the team a chance to crawl all the way back.
With some miraculous shots from Blake Hinson and other late buckets from Sibande, Jamarius Burton, and Nelly Cummings, Pitt cut it all the way down to two with just 13 seconds remaining.
HINSON’S LATE TRY ALMOST GOES
In those final 13 seconds, Hinson and Pitt found themselves with an opportunity to tie — or even win — the game.
Hinson drained an acrobatic three pointer to cut the deficit to two, hitting a well-contested fadeaway from the top of the key with 13 seconds left.
With just seconds to go after Omier missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Pitt looked to Hinson, who had hit six threes on the night, to cap off a thrilling comeback. However, his deep three-point attempt rattled off the rim and the Panthers went home with the loss.
Another look at Hinson’s last three-point attempt.
Obviously would like to see a better look with 5-6 seconds to go, but somehow, Hinson almost made this.. pic.twitter.com/9dOFhQ9Itm
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) March 5, 2023
His final try looked on-target and would have been one of the greatest shots in program history. However, the shot rimmed out and Pitt officially fell to the Hurricanes.
PITT HANDLES WONG, BUT MIAMI IS DEEP…
Pitt did a tremendous job shutting down Hurricanes’ star Isaiah Wong, holding him without a field goal until the 11-minute mark in the second half.
Wong missed his first five field-goal attempts on the night, as the Panthers was forcing the rest of the Miami roster to beat them. While Wong struggled, Jim Larrañaga looked to Norchad Omier, Jordan Miller, and the sharpest shooter of the night — Wooga Poplar — for offensive firepower.
“I thought we did an unbelievable job on Wong,” Capel said after the game. “To hold him to 1 for 9. For Pack to be 4 for 12. But the guy that really hurt us was Poplar. He hit six threes tonight. Congrats to him. You can tell he’s been working on his game, and he made some big plays tonight. But some of those, I’d be willing to bet, about three of those came on offensive rebounds.”
Poplar finished with a team-best 18 points, hitting six of his eight three-point attempts. This was Poplar’s second-highest scoring performance of the year, behind his 20-point outing against Saint Francis (PA) on Dec. 17.
ROUGH END TO A STRONG REGULAR SEASON
You’ve heard it all season long, and the Panthers have used it as motivation: Pitt was picked to finish 14th in the ACC before the season.
After putting themselves into position to win an ACC regular season title in the final regular season game of the year, the Panthers fell to the Hurricanes, crushing their ACC title hopes.
With the loss, Pitt finishes the regular season with a 21-10 overall record and a 14-6 ACC record. The Panthers held sole possession of first place just one week ago at 14-4 in the conference.
However, now that Pitt has lost its last two games of the regular season, the Panthers have fallen down to the No. 5 spot in the ACC standings and will have to play one day earlier in the ACC Tournament. They will kick off their ACC Tournament hopes with a matchup against the winner of Florida State Vs. Georgia Tech.
Great season with a lot of players who cared more about team than themselves!
I thought the refs “let them play” a lot more than typical last night, and Pitt was man-handled in the paint. I’m not saying it was one sided though. It was like watching the old Big East basketball again. Once the tournament starts that will not be the case.