Men’s basketball takeaways | Hinson returns to form, Panthers continue to pull off comeback wins


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Graduate student guard Nelly Cummings (0) attempts to shoot the ball during the Pitt men’s basketball game against Miami Saturday afternoon.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Pitt men’s basketball notched two important home wins over ACC opponents last week, defeating Wake Forest 81-79 and No. 20 Miami 71-68. The Panthers now stand at 15-7 overall with an 8-3 record in conference play. 

Here are three takeaways from the two games as the Panthers boost their tournament resume. 

Hinson re-gains form following cold stretch

Junior forward Blake Hinson broke out as one of Pitt’s top scoring options early in the season and never looked back, recording 16 straight double-digit point performances from Nov. 16 to Jan. 14. 

Despite the strong start, he ran into a rough patch in the middle of ACC play. Hinson shot four for 14 from the field against Georgia Tech and two for 11 against Louisville, while posting his first single-digit scoring total in two months. Those showings raised some short-term worries, but Hinson bounced back in a major way this week, silencing any concerns. 

Hinson stole the show alongside graduate student guard Greg Elliott in the win over Wake Forest, as he shot eight of 14 from behind the arc on his way to a 24-point game. He then scored 24 points on eight of 18 shooting from the field and five of 11 from deep against Miami, while also tipping in the shot that gave Pitt the lead for good at the 33-second mark. 

Without Hinson’s heroics, the Panthers may have dropped both games. The significance of his performances can’t be overstated enough, and Pitt hopes he can continue providing elite shot-making as they make a push toward the NCAA Tournament. 

Never count the Panthers out 

Pitt has continually clawed its way back into games this season against some of the toughest opponents on its schedule. The Panthers trailed by nine points midway through the second half against North Carolina and ended up winning 76-74. They also recovered from a 12-point deficit in the second half against Virginia on their way to a 68-65 win. 

The Panthers continued that trend on Saturday, earning a victory in a game in which Miami at one point owned an 11-point second-half lead, on top of leading by eight with 2:26 left. Pitt closed that gap with very little time left by forcing back-to-back turnovers from junior guard Isaiah Wong in addition to scoring clutch baskets from Hinson and graduate student guard Nelly Cummings. 

The Panthers also deserve praise for staying composed and closing out their game against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons came out of halftime on fire and even took a one-point lead at the 4:34 mark, but the Panthers responded by scoring on two straight possessions and closed out a game that they easily could have let slip away. 

At this point of the season, Pitt’s propensity for gut-wrenching comeback wins is one of its defining traits. It speaks to the experience and chemistry on the roster, and you can truly never count the team out of any game as a result. 

Perimeter defense needs improvement 

Pitt’s perimeter defense has emerged as one of its strengths for most of the season, ranking seventh in the conference for opponent three-point percentage at .322. However, the Panthers have seemingly let their guard down over the past few games, and it’s hurt them. 

The recent trend started in the game against Florida State when the Seminoles shot 10 of 20 from three-point range, leading to a demoralizing 71-64 loss

Pitt rebounded in the first half against Wake Forest though, holding the Demon Deacons to five of 15 shooting from deep. The Panthers’ issues would re-emerge in the second half, however, as Wake Forest shot five of 12 from three and used that to propel themselves back into a game that they were once losing by 15 points. 

The Panthers found themselves struggling in this department once again against Miami. The Hurricanes made eight threes on 47.1% shooting from deep and were also fouled on attempts from three on several occasions due to poor closeouts. 

Pitt still secured victories over Wake Forest and Miami despite lackluster perimeter defense, which perhaps is a good sign. However, the Panthers cannot let it become the norm, as it’s a perfect recipe for being taken completely out of games down the stretch. 

Pitt will continue its ACC schedule against North Carolina on the road on Wednesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC Network. 

Graduate student guard Greg Elliott (3) attempts to pass the ball during the Pitt men’s basketball game against Wake Forest last Wednesday.
(Pamela Smith | Visual Editor)