Men’s basketball takeaways | Burton continues stellar season, offense must find consistency


Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer

Graduate student guard Jamarius Burton (11) and a crowd of players chase after the ball during Pitt men’s basketball’s game against Florida State on Saturday.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Pitt men’s basketball split their two ACC matchups last week, defeating Louisville on the road 75-54 and losing to Florida State at home 71-64. With those games behind them, the Panthers moved to 13-7 overall with a 6-3 record in ACC play. 

Here are three takeaways from the latest action as the team continues their ACC slate.

Young bigs continue their development

Sophomore center Federiko Federiko and first-year forward Guillermo Diaz Graham were thrust into a difficult situation as the only true big men in the Panthers’ rotation, with junior forward John Hugley missing the rest of the season. While both players are inexperienced, they have done a good job of adapting and finding ways to impact the game on both ends.

Diaz Graham turned in one of his best performances of the season against Louisville with six points and eight boards, including four on the offensive end. He also played a key role in Pitt’s stout interior defense that was vital in holding the Cardinals’ to a 33.9% field goal percentage. 

Federiko followed in his footsteps with an eight-point, eight-rebound game against Florida State. He also showcased his rim-protecting prowess with three blocks. 

The Panthers are one of the ACC’s best rebounding teams, ranking third in the league with 37.6 per game. Federiko has headlined the team’s rebounding presence all season, but Diaz Graham’s recent production and overall make-up suggests that his impact could rise for Pitt down the stretch. 

Both players are still raw and have struggled at times, but their talent is evident and are continually developing as the season goes along. 

Burton maintains stellar level of play

Graduate student guard Jamarius Burton is in the midst of a career year thus far, ranking in the top-10 in points and assists per game among ACC players. He’s played a massive role in Pitt’s success so far this season and is an invaluable presence on the floor. 

Despite attempting his fewest number of field goal attempts in a single game since facing Syracuse on Dec. 20, Burton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists while adding three steals in the win over Louisville. 

Burton also shouldered the load for Pitt against Florida State in what was an off-day for a majority of the Panthers’ roster. He generated offense by attacking the paint and finishing strong at the rim, resulting in a 20-point and five-assist showing. 

Pitt’s offense struggles to build momentum and find rhythm when Burton isn’t in the game, speaking to his importance as both a scorer and facilitator. His impact was evident in both games last week, and his elite level of play should continue to propel the Panthers. 

Offense needs to find consistency

The Panthers are often prone to long offensive lulls despite ranking in the top-half for scoring among ACC teams

Pitt came out on fire against Florida State on Saturday, putting up 15 points by the 14:46 mark of the first half, giving themselves an early 10-point lead. However, they stalled soon after and didn’t score for a period of four minutes from 13:38 to 9:06, while the Seminoles capitalized and took a 39-29 lead into halftime. 

The second half played out in a similar fashion, as Pitt outscored Florida State by 13 points in the first six and a half minutes of the half en route to a 45-42 lead. The Seminoles then outscored the Panthers by 10 for the rest of the half and Pitt failed to score within the last two minutes of the game. 

While the offense was more efficient against Louisville, they had a few stretches where they went cold and let the game get within arm’s-length. The Panthers can’t let that happen, especially against defenses that have struggled as immensely as the Cardinals

Pitt’s over-reliance on three-point shooting has factored into their inconsistencies, evidenced by its 25% shooting percentage from deep on 28 attempts against Florida State. A lack of off-ball movement is another potential reason, as the team doesn’t have a true scoring big that can post up and work in the paint. 

The Panthers are finding ways to circumvent these shortcomings, but something must change for the offense to remain competitive on a game-to-game basis. 

Pitt will continue its ACC schedule against Wake Forest at home on Wednesday. ACC Network will have coverage starting at 7 p.m.