Hinson, Panthers impress in exhibition game vs. Edinboro


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Pitt junior forward Blake Hinson (2) attempts to make a basket during Wednesday’s scrimmage game against Edinboro.

By Ben Pisano , Staff Writer

As the Pitt men’s basketball team commenced their final preseason game on Wednesday night, familiar sounds filled the Petersen Events Center. Chants from the Pitt cheerleaders, triumphant blares from the brass of the Pitt band and sneakers squeaking on hardwood just to name a few.

It wasn’t long until a new sound familiarized itself in the Pete.

“Hinson for three!” The crowd heard that call a lot — once for each of junior forward Blake Hinson’s five threes in the first half.

The Panthers smothered the Edinboro Fighting Scots in their final exhibition game before the regular season, winning 92-53.

Moments after tipoff, graduate student guard Nelly Cummings made a three-point jump shot from the left side of the court. With that, the Panthers took the lead and never gave it back for the remainder of the exhibition. The Panthers led by 23 at halftime, aided by an impressive performance from Hinson. 

In the second half, the Panthers’ defense possessed all the positive qualities of a brick wall, holding Edinboro to 23 points — many of those coming in garbage time. As a unit, Pitt forced 24 turnovers and racked up 26 defensive rebounds. Head coach Jeff Capel praised Pitt’s defense for locking in on their assignments after a wobbly first half of play.

“I thought defensively in the second half, we settled in and did a much better job,” Capel said. “In the first half, we were just kind of scattered. We were constantly in rotations and that led to them getting some good baskets and having 30 points at the half.”

Those 30 points from Edinboro just barely exceeded Hinson’s offensive output. Hinson scored 28 points in the first half, going 5-8 on three-point shots. So far in exhibition play, Hinson’s proven himself as an unexpected offensive force. He contributed a game-high 20 points in Pitt’s 103-51 win over Clarion in the team’s first preseason exhibition.

Hinson’s pre-season dominance is all the more impressive considering he hasn’t played NCAA basketball in two years. He played two seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Iowa State, where he sat out the entirety of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

Hinson isn’t the only player to make a comeback in 2022. Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande returned to the Panthers lineup for the first time since tearing his ACL in a preseason game last year. Sibande made an instant impact in his return to the court, tallying 14 points in 18 minutes of play. 

“It’s been just amazing to be back,” Sibande said. “I’m just excited to continue to get to work, continue to grow and get better.”

Junior guard KJ Marshall came off the bench late in the second half. With less than six minutes left, Marshall made a three-point jump shot, extending the Panthers’ lead. Despite his limited role, Marshall tallied seven points near the end of the game, making the most of his time on the floor. Capel praised Marshall’s performance and the dynamic he brings to the locker room.

“KJ’s terrific. He and [senior forward Aiden Fisch] are two of the best walk-ons that we’ve ever had,” Capel said. “He brings unbelievable enthusiasm and joy to playing basketball, which becomes contagious.”

Junior forward John Hugley IV was notably absent from the exhibition game. Hugley sustained a lower-body injury in the preseason and hasn’t practiced for the past month. Capel remains hopeful about Hugley’s recovery and the depth he’ll add to the Panthers’ lineup.

“My hope is that it makes us even better when John is able to come back,” Capel said. “He’s power. That’s what he is, he’s physical.”

With this victory, Pitt extended its exhibition play win streak to 39 games — remaining undefeated in the Petersen Events Center in the preseason

Despite his two-year hiatus, Hinson remains undaunted by the prospect of regular-season play.

“Nothing changes for me or the team,” Hinson said. “We get to play the same brand of basketball we’ve been playing.”

Capel says that overall he’s satisfied with what he’s seen from the team in the preseason exhibitions.

“A lot of work to do, but I’m pleased,” Capel said.

The Panthers will return to the Petersen Events Center on Nov. 7 for the regular-season opener against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.

Pitt redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande (22), right, dribbles the ball during Wednesday’s scrimmage game against Edinboro.
(Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer )