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Nelly Cummings No Stranger to Team-High Point Totals in NCAA Tournament




DAYTON, Ohio – When the moments mattered most and the lights flashed brightest, Nelly Cummings was there to shine. 

In his final year of eligibility and lone season with the Panthers, the Lincoln Park alum recorded team-highs in points (15) and assists (4) in Pitt’s 60-59 First Four victory against Mississippi State on the national stage.

“It definitely felt good,” Cummings said. “We’ve been doing it all year long, so it was just a testament to our work all year, and I think everything came together for us today for sure.”

Cummings entered the night averaging 11 points and 159 total assists. He is no stranger to March Madness, scoring a team-best 20 points for Colgate in last year’s NCAA Tournament against Wisconsin and posted 14 points in Colgate’s meeting with Arkansas two years ago. His leadership and ability to attack the basket were on full display in the one-point win to guide the Panthers to their first Tournament win since 2014 and the first time in the Round of 64 since 2016.

We’re definitely excited about that win and going to enjoy it today [Tuesday], but our work doesn’t stop here,” Cummings said after the game. “We’re a hungry team who’s ready for whatever challenge in front of us.”

Pitt led 35-34 after 20 minutes of play and was a wide enough margin to maintain in the second half. It didn’t come without a see-saw type of night on the scoreboard. 21 lead changes defined the Panthers’ first March Madness in seven years before Jamarius Burton sunk the game-winning shot with 10 seconds remaining and Pitt held up defensively on the other end.

It’s a dogfight,” Cummings said. “Coming into this game, we were prepared for that. But when you’re in the dogfight it’s a lot of adrenaline, a lot of emotion, a lot of attention to detail. And I think today [Tuesday] we did a really good job of that and staying on task and understanding our assignment.”

Missing Federiko Federiko to a knee injury dating back to last week, the Panthers knew rebounding would be a challenge. Mississippi State dominated the glass 49-28 including 18-6 on the offensive boards. Regardless, Pitt locked in when it mattered most to secure a 58-52 lead with three minutes remaining – that was lost before Burton’s game-winner – and understood, as a veteran team, what it took to move on in March.

“The attention to detail we had to have to maintain throughout the game was something that we talked about as soon as we found out who we were playing,” Cummings said. “As soon as we saw the matchup, we knew we would have to be locked in defensively. Being that Federiko wasn’t playing, we just understood the assignment and really just followed it.”

The No. 11 seed Panthers will face No. 6 Iowa State Friday at 3 p.m. from Greensboro, North Carolina. Pitt returns to the Greensboro Coliseum – home of the 2023 ACC Tournament – less than a week after defeating Georgia Tech and losing to Duke to close ACC competition. The game is set to begin at 3 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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