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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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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024
Opinion | Hold your elected officials morally responsible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 18, 2024

Pitt men’s basketball gears up for difficult matchup with NC State

Sophomore+forward+Guillermo+Diaz+Graham+%2825%29+shoots+during+a+game+against+Notre+Dame+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center+on+Saturday.
Bronco York | Staff Photographer
Sophomore forward Guillermo Diaz Graham (25) shoots during a game against Notre Dame at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday.

Pitt men’s basketball (14-8, 5-6 ACC) is on a roll heading into a road game against NC State (15-7, 7-4 ACC) that holds major implications. The Panthers will focus on continuing their climb up the conference standings versus a well-balanced Wolfpack squad that is a tough out. 

Pitt, after finding itself among the basement dwellers of the ACC earlier in the season, has found a rhythm over the past several weeks. The Panthers have won four of their last five conference matchups, including two against Wake Forest and Notre Dame last week. Pitt’s defense shined in both contests while also turning in exceptional second-half performances and showcasing the kind of competitive spirit head coach Jeff Capel has preached about all year. 

First-year guard Carlton “Bub” Carrington and junior guard Ishmael Leggett were instrumental for the Panthers in each of their wins over the past week. They almost single-handedly willed Pitt to a win over the Demon Deacons with a combined 46 points on 16-for-31 shooting

Carrington tallied 24 points in that game while Leggett recorded 22 points – both of which were season-highs. Against Notre Dame, both Carrington and Leggett shot 50% from the field and finished with double-digit point totals while remaining strong on the defensive end of the floor as well. Both players are key to the Panthers’ success, and both performing consistently could mean all the difference in the world for the program. 

Pitt’s recent resurgence has also recontextualized the discourse surrounding its campaign. While it’s too early for NCAA tournament talk, the fact that it’s become somewhat of a discussion speaks volumes about the Panthers’ recent run. With momentum and prime opportunities for resume-boosting wins on the schedule, Pitt is in a good position as the season winds down. 

The Panthers’ matchup with NC State qualifies as one of those prime opportunities left on the docket. The two programs faced each other once last season as Pitt came away with a 68-60 road victory in the first game of ACC play. 

The Wolfpack possesses a three-headed monster in its backcourt that could pose serious problems for the Panthers. Graduate student guard and Arizona State transfer DJ Horne leads the way with 15.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 41.6% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from behind the arc. Graduate student guard Casey Morsell is in his third year with NC State and is putting up 12.3 points on 42.2% shooting. The final piece of the puzzle is junior guard Jayden Taylor, who averages 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. 

Graduate student forward D.J. Burns Jr. is a workhorse in the Wolfpack’s frontcourt as well. He’s currently averaging 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 50.2% overall. Junior forwards Ben Middlebrooks and Mohamed Diarra are worth keeping an eye on off the bench as rebounding specialists who can score inside the paint. 

NC State, as a team, embodies the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.” It sits at No. 8 in the ACC in points per game and No. 11 in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage at 43.2% and 33.0%, respectively. Additionally, the Wolfpack ranks No. 7 in rebounds and No. 10 in assists

Defensively, NC State allows 70.2 points per game, which is seventh-best in the conference. The Wolfpack also force the third-most turnovers per game at 13.8, though their opponents shoot at a 42.7% clip from the field and 34.2% from three-point range. 

Pitt has played itself back into relevance in the ACC and could help itself out even more in that category with a win over NC State, who is currently fourth in the conference standings. The Wolfpack also owns an 11-2 record at home, adding an extra element that works against the Panthers. In any case, there are the kinds of games Pitt desperately needs down the stretch, and a win would go a long way toward further building its resumé. 

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Raleigh, North Carolina, and coverage will air on ESPNU. 

 

About the Contributor
Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer