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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • 9:10 am

Takeaways | Zack Austin dominates defensively, offense struggles down the stretch

Redshirt+junior+forward+Zack+Austin+%2855%29+defends+the+basket+from+a+Clemson+player+during+Sunday+afternoons+game+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center.+
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Redshirt junior forward Zack Austin (55) defends the basket from a Clemson player during Sunday afternoon’s game at the Petersen Events Center.

Pitt men’s basketball attempted to get back on track in their ACC opener against Clemson. Their comeback attempt came up short when the Panthers fell to the Tigers for their third loss in four games. 

Here are my takeaways from the Panthers’ loss to the Tigers.

Zack Austin is a defensive menace

Outside of the performance of senior forward Blake Hinson, the lone positive from the Panthers’ ACC opener was the defensive play of redshirt junior forward Zack Austin. The Panthers knew they were getting a defensive player when they acquired Austin from the transfer portal, but his play has exceeded their expectations.

The redshirt junior finished with two blocks, two steals and seven rebounds on Sunday. Austin added seven points to go along with his defensive masterclass. Performances like these aren’t a rarity for Austin.

Austin averages one steal and 1.75 blocks per game through the first eight games of the season. Despite the loss, Panthers’ head coach Jeff Capel praised Austin’s play on the defensive end. 

“I thought [Austin] did some really good things for us,” Capel said. “He impacted the game defensively, especially early with some steals. I thought he did some good stuff.”

If Austin can keep this up he will continue to cause havoc to opposing offenses. 

Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws

The most basic facet of the game of basketball is the free throw. When an offensive player is fouled on a shot attempt, depending on the outcome of that shot attempt, they are awarded one, two or even three free throw attempts. An unguarded shot from 15 feet away from the basket is by far the easiest shot a player can ask for.

Somehow, the Panthers’ biggest flaw in 2023 is free throw shooting. The Panthers shot 54.5 percent from the stripe on Sunday. It is not a direct one-to-one correlation, but the Panthers lost by nine points and missed 10 free throws. 

The stakes in which they miss them are also alarming. With 3:09 remaining in the contest, the Panthers brought the game within four points. The Panthers missed four free throws in the last three minutes. 

It’s almost inexcusable. The Panthers rank No. 5 in the ACC in terms of free throw shooting but their ranking doesn’t tell the full story. The Panthers have shot under 65% from the free throw line in four games this season — two of them have resulted in losses. 

Capel thinks that the free-throw issues result from individual players and not a lack of attention to free throws during practice. 

“We have some individuals that have to be better,” Capel said. “Bottom line. And we have to work with them and help them be better.”

Regardless of the cause, the Panthers need to improve at the free-throw line. 

Federiko must improve

The Panthers frontcourt has experience and is supposed to carry the load for them this season, but so far they have underperformed, outside of Hinson. A big factor in this is the subpar play from junior center Federiko Federiko.

Federiko is averaging 2.125 blocks per game, but other than that he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Federiko averages 6.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. With an almost 7-foot frame and an offseason to develop, Federiko has the potential to average a double-double, but I have not seen a large jump in his development.

Offensively, the junior center slows down the pace for an otherwise fast Panthers team. This wouldn’t cause issues if Federiko were a dominant paint presence, but he’s not. On the defensive end, Federiko blocks shots, but his lackluster defensive rebounding gives opposing teams extra opportunities.

Against Clemson, junior forward Ian Schieffelin dominated the offensive glass. Schieffelin grabbed seven offensive rebounds, helping the Tigers to 12 second-chance points. Graduate student guard Joe Girard III benefited from Schieffelin’s efforts.

“As a shooter, those [second chance looks] are the ones that you hunt,” Girard said. “When you have a guy like [Schieffelin] who can pull in offensive rebounds and can kick out to you, it makes your job a lot easier.”

If Federiko can’t improve on both ends, Capel needs to look at potentially benching Federiko. And that is something that he did not rule out. 

“Everything is under consideration now,” Capel said when asked about the temptation to bench Federiko. “We need to be better.”

Offensive woes hampering Panthers

In two consecutive games, the Panthers went on scoring droughts that hurt their chances to win. Against Missouri, the Panthers went on a nine-minute stretch in the second half where they didn’t convert a field goal. Against Clemson, the Panthers went on a 3:41 stretch to end the game where they didn’t convert a field goal.

Add their zero bench points in the game against Clemson and it was an all-around poor offensive performance. If it weren’t for Hinson’s 27 points — tying his career high — the Panthers’ offense would have looked even worse. 

Capel thinks that it is a complete team effort to halt these scoring droughts and took accountability for not utilizing his timeouts. 

“I have to help us with our decision-making and where the ball needs to go,” Capel said. “We could have used a timeout, I thought we had a good rhythm on offense, so I thought we had an idea of what we needed to do. But that obviously wasn’t the case.”

The Panthers look to right their wrongs in enemy territory Wednesday night as they travel down to Morgantown to battle West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl.

About the Contributor
Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor
Jermaine Sykes is the Assistant Sports Editor for The Pitt News. He is a part of the College of Business and Administration class of 2024 and is double majoring in Marketing and Human Resources Management. He is also pursuing a Sports Management certificate and an Economics minor. He has written over 75 articles as a member of the sports staff.