Panther Spotlight: Murphy, Vera, Matthews headline winter sports


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior guard Ryan Murphy shone with a performance last week against Nicholls State with a 28-point performance on 10-17 FG shooting.

By John Riskis, Staff Writer

To quote HBO blockbuster “Game of Thrones”’ most famous father, Ned Stark, “Winter is coming.” The snow has already arrived and with it some seasonal Pitt athletics action. As the new season begins, these Panther athletes have already proven their value.

Ryan Murphy, men’s basketball

Men’s basketball had a rocky start to the season last week with a photo-finish win against Florida State and a puzzling loss to a non-conference Nicholls State. Regardless, junior guard Ryan Murphy shined with a with a 28-point performance on 10-17 FG shooting in the latter.

Against Florida State, he chipped in 13 points with three of six shooting from beyond the arc. Murphy’s performance thus far highlights his value as a perimeter shooter — something the Panthers desperately needed after losing senior Jared Wilson-Frame to graduation last season.

Murphy added another 10 points to his season total against Robert Morris last night in just 26 minutes — with Pitt focusing its offense in the paint against an outsized opponent. Look for him to bounce back and prove his worth not just as a 3-point shooting ace this season, but as a complete playmaker who can pass and handle the ball. 

Murphy will look to keep his hands hot when Pitt basketball welcomes West Virginia on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.

Blaise Vera, men’s swimming and diving

Pitt men’s swimming and diving is already turning heads with notable team and individual performances to open its 2019 campaign.

Junior Blaise Vera is off to a hot start in the pool this season, earning ACC Men’s Swimmer of the Week for his efforts in a dual meet victory against Michigan State on Oct. 18. He captured the same title two weeks prior after his success against Carnegie Mellon to open the season.

He achieved this feat through his blazing speeds at Michigan State, posting a 50-meter freestyle time of 19.98 seconds and 100-meter freestyle of 44.10 seconds. These times secured wins in each event and proved crucial in winning the men’s meet.

Facing Notre Dame, his skill in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events was even more evident. Vera won both individual events with a 19.75 finish in the 50-meter freestyle and a 43.30 finish in the 100-meter freestyle. Unfortunately, his wins alone could not muster a team win against Notre Dame on Saturday with the men’s team falling 222-130.

Blaise and men’s swimming and diving will look to rebound at the Purdue Invitational on Nov. 21-23.

Cole Matthews, wrestling

No. 15 Pitt wrestling found solid footing in a dominant 28-6 victory over Campbell on Saturday. This early season jolt was fueled in part by a quick pin by redshirt freshman Cole Matthews.

The young talent helped secure a win against the Camels with a pin on Josh Heil in 1:28 to give the Panthers a 9-3 lead. His individual win was already in the making after a blazing start last year.

Matthews comes into this season wrestling in the 141-pound weight class and has shown results immediately. Last season, he captured two titles at the Cleveland State Open and Edinboro Open. Further, he recorded pins against Muhammad Imran Heard and Justin Ingram of Lock Haven and Clarion, respectively.

Head coach Keith Gavin remarked on Matthew’s first start this season.

“Cole is a special kid,” said Gavin. “He’s a great competitor. The guy he wrestled today is pretty good, he’s been around and has a lot of experience. But Cole is mature beyond his years when he’s out there competing.”

One has to think this will be Matthews’ breakout year with such a dominant performance to start the season. Pinning down more opponents this winter will only boost morale on this high-flying team.

Matthews and Pitt wrestling look to maintain success when they host Ohio State this Friday at the Fitzgerald Field House.