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Pitt Basketball

No. 3 Xavier’s Steady Offense Overpowers No. 11 Pitt to Send Panthers Home, 84-73



GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sean Miller’s Xavier Musketeers proved too much for 11-seed Pitt on Sunday afternoon, ending the Panthers’ 2022-23 season with a convincing 84-73 win behind Adam Kunkel, Jack Nunge, and company.

Pitt kept up with Xavier for the first few minutes, but the floodgates soon opened and the Musketeers ran away with the win. Pitt put up a fight in the final minutes, but could not come within eight points as Xavier moved on to the Sweet 16.

An early 7-0 run from Xavier came to a halt as Jorge Diaz-Graham  drained a corner three, just seconds into his first possession in the game. However, Pitt couldn’t keep the Musketeers quiet for much longer.

Xavier responded with yet another 7-0 run, building the overall stretch to 14-3 with six straight made field goals to take a 28-18 lead. Colby Jones scored eight points in the four-minute span, hitting two threes. Xavier’s big man Nunge dominated inside, scoring four points of his own during the stretch.

Pitt cut the lead down to six with a Blake Hinson three, but failed to contain the Musketeers high-powered offense throughout the rest of the half. After Kunkel tossed up an alley-oop lob to a cutting Nunge, Kunkel followed it up with a deep three to increase the lead to a game-high 13.

Kunkel later hit his fifth three of the half — on his fifth attempt — to continue the Musketeers’ momentum, increasing Xavier’s lead to a half-high 20. The 6-foot-4 guard had put on a three-point shooting clinic, and Pitt just couldn’t keep up. The Panthers went just 3 for 9 from three-point range in the first, as Hinson led the way with nine points.

Pitt’s Burton cut into the margin to open the second half with a mid-range fadeaway, cutting Xavier’s lead down to 12.

However, Xavier kept its foot on the gas, and despite an 0-8 start to the game, Souley Boum drained his first three of the night to keep the Musketeers’ lead over 15 points.

Trailing by 16 with just under 12 minutes to go, Pitt gained some momentum with a Cummings floater followed by a Guillermo Diaz-Graham steal-then-slam. However, Boum answered with a quick layup just seconds later, and Desmond Claude followed with a bucket himself. The lead was quickly over 15 points yet again.

With nine minutes to go, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel earned a technical foul after arguing with a referee. Pitt’s frustration continued to come out, as the Panthers failed to cut further into the deficit and the Musketeers caught fire once again.

Pitt cut the lead within 15 once more, as Hinson hit a three from the logo with under five minutes to go. Then, with under three to go, Burton converted an and-one layup to trim the lead to 10.

Elliott then hit his first three pointer of the game, trimming the lead down to a second-half low eight with 1:40 to go.

However, after Xavier’s Claude sank three of his four late free throws, the lead was back to 11.

For Xavier, Nunge finished as the leading scorer with 18 points, fouling out in the final minutes. Kunkel added 15 (all in first half), while Boum added 14 points.

For the Panthers, Hinson led the way with 18, while Nelly Cummings hit three of his 13 attempts to finish his college career with a nine-point, five-assist stat line. Burton, Nike Sibande, and Greg Elliott all concluded their college careers with the loss, finishing with 16, six, and six points, respectively. Guillermo Diaz-Graham started the game in place of Federiko Federiko, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds.

With the loss, Pitt finishes its season with a 24-12 record, its best since 2013-14, when the Panthers won 26 games and advanced to the Sweet 16. Xavier now moves on to face off against No. 2 Texas in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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