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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

Preview | Pitt men’s basketball kicks off ACC play against Clemson

First-year+guard+Carlton+Carrington+%287%29+dribbles+during+Tuesday+night%E2%80%99s+game+against+Missouri+in+the+Petersen+Events+Center.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
First-year guard Carlton Carrington (7) dribbles during Tuesday night’s game against Missouri in the Petersen Events Center.

Pitt men’s basketball took on Missouri on Nov. 28 with disappointing results. Due to their lackluster shot selection and Missouri’s superior rebounding, the Panthers lost by seven. Pitt now takes a break from nonconference play and will take on ACC foe Clemson this Sunday. 

Following a stretch of three Power Five opponents that left Pitt 1-2 against the upper echelon of college basketball, Pitt will look to rebound against a brand new Clemson team.

Here are some things to look for in the game. 

Pitt must respond well to physicality

In both of Pitt’s losses so far this season, the main force behind its struggles was the opponent’s physicality. While the Panthers boast one of the tallest teams in basketball, they are not entirely physical, nor do they respond to physicality well. This became especially prevalent when both teams set up full-court presses to slow down first-year guard Carlton Carrington. Pitt was then unable to create open looks or decent perimeter shot opportunities. They eventually would adjust to the press, but it was late. 

Now that the “book” is out on Pitt and other teams can effectively strategize against them, it must prepare ahead of time for the physicality the team is bound to face. 

Joe Girard and the three-pointer

Clemson fifth-year guard Joe Girard returns to the Petersen Events Center for the first time since he was a member of the Syracuse roster last season. Fans will remember their game on Feb. 25 as one of absolute domination for the Panthers when they beat Syracuse 99-82. In that game, Girard logged 16 points — his team’s second highest — while creating shots out of bad situations. 

If Girard can create shots like in previous matchups against the Panthers, he will become a large issue. 

Led by Girard, senior center PJ Hall and senior guard Chase Hunter, the Tigers are No. 8 in the nation in three-point percentage, coming into this game shooting 41.5% from deep. 31% of their points this season came from beyond the arc, good for No. 31 in basketball. 

Pitt, however, can counterbalance this if it keeps up its stellar perimeter defense. It currently ranks No. 14 in D1 basketball at lowest opponent three-point percentage. Perimeter defense issues plagued Pitt early against Missouri, but were later fixed as the second half continued.

For Pitt to win, it must start with excellent defense from beyond, which will translate to rebounds. 

Pitt must continue its dominance on the boards

Pitt comes into this game as the No. 13 team in the nation at offensive rebound percentage, getting second chances on 38.7% of its shots. It averages 46.3 rebounds per game — No. 4 in the nation in that category — while its opponents only grab 31.7 per game. This margin also comes in at No. 4, showcasing Pitt’s authority on the boards. 

If the Panthers are able to rebound similarly against Clemson, their second-chance opportunities will propel them to multiple leads. 

A lot of these rebounds can lead to fast breaks, which set up many opportunities for junior guard Ishmael Leggett — a member of Pitt’s roster with tremendous impact recently. 

Prediction

This game will definitely go to the wire. Fans in attendance should expect to do very little sitting, as this one will prove exciting. 

But Pitt should get its shot selection settled and come away with a win in a shootout as it opens conference play against a tough opponent. Carrington and fifth-year forward Blake Hinson will shine under the lights once again, combining for 10 threes. 

Girard, whose shot style reflects that of Hinson, will shoot a myriad of low-percentage shots that go in. He should easily eclipse 10 points against Pitt’s defense. 

Overall, the Panthers’ top 15 perimeter lends them an advantage against a team whose strong suit is the deep ball, and they keep Clemson to a lower percentage than their season average.

Pitt wins 81-77.

About the Contributor
Ari Meyer, Staff Writer