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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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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
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Pitt men’s basketball prepares for tough test against Wake Forest

Graduate+student+guard+Nelly+Cummings+%280%29+dodges+Wake+Forest+players+during+Pitt+mens+basketballs+game+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+25%2C+2023.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Graduate student guard Nelly Cummings (0) dodges Wake Forest players during Pitt men’s basketball’s game on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

Pitt men’s basketball (12-8, 3-6 ACC) returns home following a three-game road trip for a pivotal matchup against Wake Forest (13-6, 5-3 ACC) on Wednesday. After falling just short of a comeback win over Miami, the Panthers will have another opportunity for a monumental conference win over a Demon Deacons team that will present challenges all over the floor. 

Pitt’s performance against the Hurricanes is best described as a tale of two halves. The Panthers shot 32.3% overall and 23.5% from three-point range in the first half while also enduring a stretch of over six minutes without a field goal. The tide turned in the second half, however, as Pitt rallied and shot 42.4% with seven threes while outscoring Miami by seven points. 

First-year guard Jaland Lowe was instrumental as he almost single-handedly pushed the Panthers over the finish line. He rebounded from a rough start to the game and went five for eight in the second half for 15 points. Lowe also nailed two three-pointers and a pair of free throws during the final three minutes, putting pressure on Miami. But he couldn’t come through on the Panthers’ final possession of the contest, though it appeared the officials missed a foul that would’ve sent him to the line. Nevertheless, Lowe’s play has progressed immensely as the season has gone on, and he’s become an invaluable part of Pitt’s roster. 

While the Panthers didn’t complete the job against Miami, they showcased the kind of fight and fortitude that’s necessary moving forward. They fell behind by 19 points in the second half, yet scratched and clawed their way back into the game. Pitt has mounted comebacks many times this season, with matchups against Missouri and Clemson acting as prime examples. If the Panthers consistently play with that edge, the results will follow. 

Pitt men’s basketball is in for another battle with the Demon Deacons rolling into town. The two programs played each other once last season, resulting in a tightly contested 81-79 win for the Panthers that came down to the last shot. 

Wake Forest possesses one of the strongest backcourts in college basketball, which is spearheaded by junior guard Hunter Sallis. Sallis, a Gonzaga transfer, is No. 6 in the ACC with 17.7 points per game on 48.2% shooting. His running mate is redshirt sophomore guard Kevin Miller, a Central Michigan transfer, who is averaging 16.8 points and 4.1 assists a game on 46% shooting. The Demon Deacons also feature junior guard Cameron Hildreth and redshirt senior guard Damari Monsanto, two longtime staples of the program who are dynamic scoring threats as well. 

Wake Forest’s frontcourt isn’t lacking either, as both senior forward Andrew Carr and junior forward Efton Reid present many problems for opposing big men. Carr is currently averaging 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, all while shooting 53.8% overall and 39.2% from behind the arc. Reid, a former Pitt target who played with Sallis at Gonzaga, is a nightly double-double threat who also tallies nearly two blocks a game. 

The Demon Deacons are one of the more well-rounded teams in the conference, which shows in their team stats. They sit at No. 4 in the ACC in both points per game and shooting percentage at 80.2% and 47.1%, respectively, while ranking second in three-point percentage at 38.2%. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Wake Forest is positioned in the middle of the pack in most categories. It allows 70.6 points per game to its opponents on 43.1% shooting from the field, both of which rank No. 8 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons also average the fifth-most blocks per game, but rebounding is a weakness for Wake Forest, ranking in the bottom five in the conference in that statistic.

Time is of the essence for the Panthers, who would greatly benefit from a win over a Wake Forest team that is ahead of them in the ACC standings. If Pitt can consistently shoot and defend the Demon Deacons’ array of playmakers, then it stands a good chance of earning a win. If they cannot, the Panthers are in danger of taking another loss that may put an official end to their postseason hopes. 

Pitt men’s basketball will face off against Wake Forest at 7 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center. Coverage will air on the ACC Network. 

 

About the Contributor
Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer