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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

Pitt men’s basketball aims to build on winning streak against red-hot Virginia

Head+Coach+Jeff+Capel+speaks+to+the+team+during+a+game+against+Notre+Dame+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center+on+Feb.+4.+
Bronco York | Staff Photographer
Head Coach Jeff Capel speaks to the team during a game against Notre Dame at the Petersen Events Center on Feb. 4.

Pitt men’s basketball’s (15-8, 6-6 ACC) three-game winning streak is on the line heading into Tuesday night’s game against No. 21 Virginia (19-5, 10-3 ACC). While Pitt is one of the hottest teams in the ACC, the Cavaliers are on an eight-game winning streak of their own and won’t easily succumb to the Panthers on their home floor. 

Pitt escaped with a win over NC State its last time out after blowing several leads of 10 points or more throughout the night. The Panthers came out firing on all cylinders as they shot 50% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc in the first half before taking an eight-point lead into halftime. 

Pitt’s offense stalled in the second half, however, shooting only 33.3% on 29 points, while the Wolfpack fought back and turned the pressure up in the final minutes. The Panthers ultimately held on and closed out the game in a tough road environment, speaking to the group’s maturity and competitive spirit. 

While Pitt’s offense has gone through its ups and downs and dealt with its fair share of inconsistencies throughout the season thus far, its defense has shown up every step of the way. The Panthers allow just 66.7 points per game, the third-best among ACC teams. Pitt’s opponents also shoot at a 41.7% clip from the field, ranking No. 4 in the conference, and 30.2% from three-point territory, which sits at No. 2. The Panthers average the most blocks at 5.0 per game as well, showcasing how well-rounded of a unit the team has fostered up to this point. 

A major storyline surrounding Pitt’s recent resurgence is its success on the road. The Panthers currently hold a 5-2 record away from home this season, which is second only to North Carolina in the conference. All five of Pitt’s road wins came against power conference opponents, including one over No. 7 Duke that sparked its current hot streak. The Panthers have embraced their status as road warriors, ultimately helping them climb back up the ACC standings and into position for a potential postseason run if they can keep it up. 

Pitt’s road toughness is more important than ever leading into its matchup with Virginia, who possess a 23-game winning streak in Charlottesville. The two programs faced each other once last season as the Panthers came out on top by a score of 68-65 at the Petersen Events Center. 

The Cavaliers revolve around a three-man guard rotation whose members carry vastly different, yet complementary, skill sets. Senior guard Reece Beekman is Virginia’s leading scorer with 13.8 points per game on 44.7% shooting while also leading the ACC with 6.1 assists a game. Sophomore guard Isaac McKneely is a catch-and-shoot specialist who leads the nation on 47.97% shooting from behind the arc while averaging 12.3 points per game. Finally, sophomore guard Ryan Dunn is a defensive specialist who has received NBA Draft buzz while averaging 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals. 

As for Virginia’s frontcourt, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Graduate student forward and Oklahoma transfer Jacob Groves averages 8.0 points per game on 51.4% shooting from deep and has scored at least 10 points in each of his last four games. Opposite him is graduate student forward and Merrimack transfer Jordan Minor, who has come into his own in recent weeks and emerged as a defensive anchor inside the paint for the Cavaliers. First-year forward Blake Buchanan also factors into the mix as a fantastic rebounder who can protect the rim. 

Virginia’s offense doesn’t score a lot, but that’s more of a reflection of its play style and pace. The Cavaliers average the second-fewest points per game in the conference, but they own the highest three-point percentage at 38.7% and generate the most assists per game at 15.9. Their defense is elite as well, allowing the second-fewest points per game in the nation at 57.6 and the lowest field goal percentage among ACC teams at 39.4%. 

The Panthers need their “A game” on Tuesday if they have any hopes of securing a win over a well-coached Cavaliers team that will make their lives difficult on both ends of the floor. If Pitt can take down Virginia on the road, its bid for a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth will receive a huge boost.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from Charlottesville, Virginia, and coverage will air on the ACC Network.

About the Contributor
Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer