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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
Column | Former Villanova fanatic watches “Nova Knicks” take down Sixers in NBA Playoffs
By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Takeaways | Pitt men’s basketball shows toughness against Duke

Senior+forward+Blake+Hinson+%282%29+pivots+with+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Duke+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center+on+Tuesday%2C+Jan.+9.
Kaylee Uribe | Staff Photographer
Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) pivots with the ball during the game against Duke at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

For the first time since 1979, unranked Pitt men’s basketball (11-7, 2-5 ACC) took down No. 7 Duke (13-4, 4-2 ACC) in Durham, North Carolina.

Here are my takeaways from the game.

Setting the tempo is important

It is an understatement to say that Pitt started off this game hot. The Panthers opened the game with a fiery 9-0 run, playing tough defense and hustling for loose balls. This gritty basketball was a theme for Pitt throughout the game and ultimately helped it pull out the upset. The Panthers set a precedent early that this game would turn out as a catfight, and they did not let up until the final buzzer.

From the tip, Pitt played with fire, showing Duke it was not there to mess around. Pitt benefited from hustle plays such as offensive rebounds, steals and scrappy defense. This effort granted the team extra possessions and took valuable time off of the clock in a close game. It was obvious the Panthers wanted the game more, and the energy Pitt showed helped it become David to Duke’s Goliath. 

Plays work 

Two prominent difference makers between this Pitt game and others were successful playcalling and filling roles. Sixth-year head coach Jeff Capel did a fantastic job against his alma mater, running plays that led to baskets for his team. On offensive possessions where Pitt players were freestyling or playing hero ball, the team scored far less than when it looked like a set play was called. 

Pitt scored efficiently when the team worked together and each player did their job. In many of Pitt’s past games, it is sometimes noticeable that the team seems lost on offense and resorts to isolation and hero basketball. This resulted in many empty offensive possessions, which was a reason for Pitt’s slow start to the season. Many times in previous games, players would give each other “grenades” as the shot clock ran down. This just was not working, as evident in their record so far. 

The Panthers need to continue this teamwork for the rest of the season. 

Jaland Lowe is blossoming into a star 

Every game, first-year guard Jaland Lowe seems to improve. The true first-year started the season coming off the bench but has quickly seen a starting role in the last three games. On Saturday, Lowe stepped up big-time. Lowe took over the game, making plays on both ends of the floor and hitting big shots to drive the Panthers’ lead forward. It seemed like Lowe was all over the court and truly laid it all out on Saturday night. Late in the game, after a clutch three-pointer, Lowe silenced the notorious Cameron Crazies, marking his dominance over the total 40 minutes. 

Blake Hinson is truly ridiculous 

Senior forward Blake Hinson was phenomenal in his record-setting night. Hinson shot seven for seven in one of college basketball’s most excruciating environments. This perfect performance set a 3-point shooting percentage record for Cameron Indoor Stadium and tied the ACC record. His ability to hit shots from anywhere on the floor, with defenders draped on him, is truly uncanny and extremely entertaining. 

Many shots left me blown away, wondering how he even got it up, let alone in. Hinson’s ability to make shots consistently throughout the game is wild, and he never seems to cool down. In the waning minutes of the game, when Pitt needed him most, he was there — a true testament to his leadership and embodiment of this team. 

Whatever Hinson ate for breakfast on Saturday morning, he should continue eating before games, because his performance was nothing short of fantastic. Behind this type of dominance, the Panthers could see some additional victories in the future and even a potential tournament berth.

This game was the spark the Panthers needed

Pitt went into this game with one ACC win to its name and hopes for a tournament appearance slowly fading away. In previous games, the team did not look great, and there were a lot of obvious problems with their play. This game was Pitt’s last chance to prove it could play with high-level teams, and the Panthers delivered. Saturday’s win was a reminder that Pitt, coming off a year with a tournament appearance and win, can get back to that place and possibly even farther. 

The ACC is competitive, and Pitt, in taking down a top dog whose team is loaded with lottery picks, shows that it belongs in this conference and is not going to go down easily. 

This win is not only huge for the record books but for team morale. The Panthers needed a wake-up call, and in their last matchup with Duke, they got it. Now, with confidence up, Pitt can bring this energy with them as it moves through the rest of the ACC. The Panthers secured a great win from a resume perspective come March and also sparked a potential season turnaround. 

 

About the Contributor
Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer
Aidan Kasner is a first-year student studying Media and Professional Communications.