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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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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

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Kamalani Akeo talks with members of the womens volleyball coaching staff in 2021.
Kamalani Akeo: An unsung hero contributing to the success of Pitt volleyball
By Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer • 10:10 am

How Pitt men’s basketball can beat Wake Forest

Pitt+players+converge+to+defend+the+basket+as+a+Clemson+player+attempts+a+layup+during+a+game+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center+on+Dec.+3%2C+2023.+
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt players converge to defend the basket as a Clemson player attempts a layup during a game at the Petersen Events Center on Dec. 3, 2023.

Pitt men’s basketball is on their longest winning streak of the season. The Panthers hope to extend their winning streak to six games on Tuesday night when they travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for their battle with Wake Forest, who is a perfect 13-0 at home.

Life on the bubble

The Demon Deacons are on their worst stretch of the season, going 3-4 in their last seven games. Pitt is 6-1 in its last seven contests. 

In Pitt’s seven-game stretch, the Panthers have two Quadrant 1 wins at NC State and Virginia and a Quadrant 2 win at home over Wake Forest. In Wake Forest’s seven-game stretch, all four of their losses were road losses to Quadrant 1 opponents, including North Carolina, Pitt, Duke and Virginia. 

Wake Forest’s lack of Quadrant 1 wins is the reason they are still on the bubble. The Demon Deacons have a record of 1-6 in Quadrant 1 games, and they are 0-5 in their last five opportunities. Wake Forest has a record of 15-3 in non-Quadrant 1 games.

Pitt, contrary to Wake Forest, is on the bubble because of their early season struggles against non-Quadrant 1 opponents. The Panthers’ home losses to Missouri, Clemson and Syracuse continue to haunt them.

Last matchup

When the Panthers and Demon Deacons faced off 20 days ago, Wake Forest had Pitt’s number early on and got out to a 39-27 lead in the second half.

But thanks to contributions from senior forward Blake Hinson, first-year guard Carlton “Bub” Carrington and junior guard Ishmael Leggett, the Panthers clawed back in the second half, eventually tying the game up at 49 apiece with 10:36 to play.

At the 9:46 mark, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel inserted redshirt junior forward Will Jeffress into the lineup as a small-ball center to slow down Wake Forest junior center Efton Reid. And Jeffress did just that and more, not allowing a single basket from Reid for the remainder of the game.

Despite Jeffress’ defensive efforts, Reid believed it did not affect his performance. And Reid thought Capel tried something different because he was giving the Panthers’ typical centers trouble.

I mean, they probably just threw him in there to see what I would do,” Reid said following the Demon Deacons loss. “And I handled it accordingly.”

How Pitt loses

The Panthers will lose if Reid dominates the Panthers’ frontcourt. 

The Gonzaga transfer said he handled Jeffress accordingly, but his play after Jeffress entered the game says otherwise. Wake Forest is preparing the center for what he needs to do when he faces Jeffress on Tuesday night. If the Panthers can’t guard Reid, they could get into big trouble with him in the post. 

The Panthers will also lose if junior guard Hunter Sallis gives their young guards fits.

Sallis, another Gonzaga transfer on the Demon Deacons squad, is one of the most underrated players in the ACC. The junior guard scored 22 points in the Demon Deacons’ last meeting with Pitt and is averaging 18.4 points per game while shooting 40.6% from three-point range. 

In the Demon Deacons’ last home game, Sallis exploded for 33 points, leading Wake Forest to a win. When Sallis scores over 20 points, the Demon Deacons are 5-2 in ACC play.

How Pitt wins

Pitt will win if Hinson stays hot. 

Last week, Hinson was the best player in the nation, averaging 34 points and earning himself National Player of the Week from multiple different outlets. Pitt won’t need Hinson to score 34 points, but they need him to stay hot from deep, as he is shooting 50.7% from three in the Panthers’ last eight games

Hinson shooting from deep at an efficient rate leaves Carrington, Leggett and first-year guard Jaland Lowe wide open from beyond the arc.

Taking care of the basketball is also important for the Panthers’ chances of winning on Tuesday.

Against Louisville, the Panthers took care of the basketball and had a program record 7.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Yes, it’s against last-place Louisville, but still, having two first-year guards lead Pitt to a program record is impressive.

The Panthers don’t need to have a program record-breaking night against the Demon Deacons. But when the young Pitt ball handlers can take care of the basketball, it makes it much easier to leave Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a win. 

The stakes for Tuesday night

The Demon Deacons are desperate for a statement win in the ACC, and beating the Panthers at home on Tuesday night could put them on the inside of the NCAA tournament bubble. 

The Panthers are on the outside looking in from the bubble, and giving the Demon Deacons their first home loss of the season would possibly get Pitt on the good side of the bubble.

Along with the NCAA Tournament implications, Pitt and Wake Forest are battling for fourth place in the ACC. And the winner of Tuesday Night’s meeting will hold the highly coveted fourth-place seed in the ACC Tournament that comes with a double bye. 

On Tuesday, Pitt fans can catch the battle of two top-five ACC teams at 9 p.m. on ACC Network.

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer