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Ishmael Leggett Shines, Leads Pitt to 81-69 Quarterfinal Win Over Wake Forest

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WASHINGTON — Thursday belonged to Pitt — and more specifically — to Ishmael Leggett.

After building an early second-half 19-point lead on Wake Forest, things seemed to be heading in the right direction for Pitt, who was looking to make the ACC Tournament semifinals on Thursday with a win.

The Panthers excelled offensively in the first half, held Wake’s star Hunter Sallis to zero points in the first, and could practically feel the semifinals as their fans cheered “Let’s go Pitt,” early in the second.

However, Sallis and the Demon Deacons were not going to fold over easy.

Pitt’s DC-area native Leggett had been the star for the Panthers all game long, thriving with the ball in his hands for a team-high in points and also grabbing five steals on the defensive end.

When Pitt needed a bucket most, it looked to the hometown kid. With less than two minutes remaining, Pitt, clinging onto a six-point lead, looked to Leggett, who drove straight to the rack for a layup, finishing through contact for his 27th and 28th points of the game. After Pitt’s Jaland Lowe converted two more free throws, the Panthers once again led by double-digits.

With more free throws from Lowe in the final 50 seconds, Pitt closed out the victory, overcoming Wake Forest’s hard-nosed comeback efforts and moving on in the tournament with the 81-69 win.

Leggett and Blake Hinson finished as Pitt’s leading scorers, dropping 30 and 20, respectively. Lowe led the team in assists with five in the game, and Hinson led the way with two blocks.

To begin the game, The Panthers traded buckets early with the Demon Deacons, as Hinson and Ishmael Leggett hit threes for the Panthers and Efton Reid and Cam Hildreth did for the ‘Deacs.

Leggett hit another shot — this time a crafty layup — with 9:50 to play in the half, kickstarting an 8-0 run for the Panthers. After that bucket, Hinson knocked down his second three of the game, forcing a Wake Forest timeout and igniting a roar from the Panther fans in attendance.

Throughout the rest of the first half, the Panthers continued to apply pressure on both ends of the floor. With a corner three from Bub Carrington, they extended their lead up to 11. After a Wake bucket on the other end, Pitt answered once again with a three from Guillermo Diaz-Graham.

At the break, Pitt led 38-26 over Wake Forest, as Leggett led the way with 11 points and four steals and Hinson followed with ten points. Pitt out-rebounded the Demon Deacons 21-13 in the first, and hit six of its 15 three-point tries. For Wake Forest, Hildreth led the charge with ten points. The Panthers held Hunter Sallis in check early, as he hit just one of his four attempts and turned the ball over three times.

In the second half, Hinson picked up right where he left off, hitting a three pointer off the dribble in the face of Hildreth. However, minutes later, after a couple of Pitt turnovers, Reid converted a three-point play, cutting Pitt’s lead back down to nine. The Demon Deacons extended their run to 7-0, cutting the lead down as low as eight points. But Pitt continued to punch back.

On two-straight possessions, Leggett exposed Wake’s Reid, first hitting a leaning jump shot and on the very next possession stepping right into a three pointer at the top of the key.

Off of an out-of-bounds play, Pitt’s Lowe found Hinson in a mismatch situation. With the smaller Boopie Miller guarding him, Hinson stepped back for a three-point try. Splash. Pitt’s lead was up to 17, and the Panther fans in attendance were all on their feet, chanting “Let’s Go Pitt.”

Wake responded with two buckets — one from Reid inside and one from Sallis on the drive. Minutes later, Sallis hit two-straight threes and Hildreth converted an and-one layup. The lead — which had been as high as 19 less than five minutes prior — was down to nine with 8:50 to play. The Demon Deacons were storming back into the game with a 9-0 run of their own, all behind the masterful guard play from Sallis in the latter half.

Lowe stopped the bleeding for Pitt with a finger-roll layup on the fastbreak, giving Pitt a ten-point cushion with 8 minutes to play. However, Sallis and the ‘Deacs kept their foot on the gas. He fed big man Andrew Carr inside for an and-one layup with less than seven minutes to play. After the free throw dropped, Pitt’s lead was all the way down to just five points.

Leggett bodied Sallis down low on the other end, backing him down for a two-pointer inside. Hildreth replied on the other end with a massive three, and the lead was four.

With the win, Pitt improved to 22-10 on the season and 13-8 in ACC action. The Panthers now advance to play against the No. 1 seed North Carolina. That game will take place on Friday, March 15 at 7 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Skip white
Skip white
2 months ago

They played a complete game. You can not ask for a better effort on National TV. Hopefully the committee members watched the game. Hoping common sense prevails here now.

Alex
Alex
2 months ago
Reply to  Skip white

Yea you would think common sense would prevail but who knows. Just keep winning!! H2P!

Pittband
Pittband
2 months ago

F**k Lunardi.

Alex
Alex
2 months ago

Way to avenge the previous loss! This IS a tournament team! If only my opinion mattered…Oh well, beat the Tarheels!! H2P!!

PITT GUY
PITT GUY
2 months ago

Anybody hear from RaDICK ?????? Like I said weeks ago Pitt is back baby ! Best 2 freshman guards in the country and one of the best coaches in all of NCAA! HAIL 2 Pitt

Eric payne
Eric payne
2 months ago
Reply to  PITT GUY

As usual, he was wrong again. This is not a good time to talk about how bad a Coach Capel is. Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
2 months ago
Reply to  Eric payne

My two favorite dunces paying homage! And as for the “two best freshman guards in the country babble- Kentucky alone has three better. Save the chest beating nonsense for if and when they get in

PITT GUY
PITT GUY
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

Go away troll boy ! Ma the meatloaf !

PITT GUY
PITT GUY
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

Carrington and Lowe BEST 2 FRESHMAN GUARDS IN THE COUNTRY ! No doubt not even close

MDtkd
MDtkd
2 months ago

Lets not overlook, they have a shot at winning the ACC tournament itself. That is a very good thing.

howardlauderback@gmail.com
howardlauderback@gmail.com
2 months ago

I’m so happy for this team. Capel has them playing as hard as any team can. I was critical of Capel at times but if you watch him he is a great coach. He is constantly teaching and coaching his boys. No matter what happens tomorrow, Pitt is a very good team. Pitt basketball is back. Go shock the world.

GFF
GFF
2 months ago

I like the 1-0 mindset.
Hopefully, they will be 1-0 tomorrow.

T M
T M
2 months ago

Super effort by ISH to will Pitt to victory. The team had one of its best game of the season. Keep up the superb performances & roll into the Big Dance!!!

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