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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

Pitt men’s basketball stares down key opportunity against Clemson

Sophomore+forward+Guillermo+Diaz+Graham+%2825%29+shoots+a+layup+during+Saturday+evening%E2%80%99s+game+against+Virginia+Tech+in+the+Petersen+Events+Center.
Liam Sullivan | Staff Photographer
Sophomore forward Guillermo Diaz Graham (25) shoots a layup during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.

Pitt men’s basketball (18-9, 9-7 ACC) is coming off of a volatile week as it prepares for its final road trip of the regular season that commences with a matchup against Clemson (19-8, 9-7 ACC) on Tuesday. As the Panthers remain entrenched on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, they could do themselves a huge favor with a complete performance against a stout Tigers squad. 

It was a tale of two games for the Panthers last week, who first dropped a crucial game against Wake Forest in blowout fashion on the road. The Demon Deacons recorded 91 points on 60.8% shooting from the field, both of which were season highs for a Pitt opponent. The Panthers, on the other hand, finished with both their lowest shooting percentage and their most lopsided loss of the year thus far.
It was a different story for Pitt against Virginia Tech, however, as it soared to a 79-64 victory. After a back-and-forth first half between the two sides, the Panthers separated from the Hokies by outscoring them 43-28 in the second half. 

Redshirt junior forward Zack Austin turned in arguably his best performance of the season, tallying nine points along with 14 rebounds and five blocks. Senior forward Blake Hinson also bounced back from one of the worst outings of his campaign against Wake Forest by shooting 6-for-15 from the field for 22 points. 

The Panthers’ on-court play during their hot streak, which has propelled them all the way up to No. 5 in the ACC standings, is a primary reason why they’re within striking distance of another postseason run in March. Just as integral, however, is their newfound maturity, competitive spirit and connectivity on the court. Pitt has shown growth and development over the last few months, which is evident in the way it competes and fights on a nightly basis. The team is gelling in every facet of the game, and now that they’ve also found their identity, there’s no telling what they can accomplish during the home stretch. 

Pitt has a lot riding on the outcome of its bout with Clemson. The two programs faced one another during the opening game of ACC play this season, where the Tigers came out victorious with a final score of 79-70

The Tigers’ backcourt is headlined by two savvy veterans who will provide headaches for the Panthers on the defensive end of the floor. Senior guard and Syracuse transfer Joe Girard III is averaging 15.8 points on 43.4% shooting from the field and 42.5% from behind the arc, which ranks No. 12 in the country. His running mate is senior guard Chase Hunter, who is scoring 12.5 points a game and leading the team in assists during his fifth season with the program. 

Clemson’s frontcourt has produced at a high level all season while representing one of the best all-around units in the conference. Senior center PJ Hall is among the premier big men in the nation and is also in line for a spot on the All-ACC first team as a result. Hall is averaging 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds a game on 49.9% shooting. Junior forward Ian Schieffelin is a double-double machine who excels defensively and exhibits extraordinary playmaking ability for a talent his size. 

The Tigers primarily thrive off the strength of their offense and rank ahead of the pack in nearly every major category in that aspect of the game. They average 78.7 points, which is the fourth-most among ACC teams, while ranking third in shooting percentage at 47.1%. Clemson also sits at No. 2 in assists per game with 15.2 and No. 3 in free throw percentage at 78.2%

The Tigers’ defensive numbers don’t jump off the page despite remaining proficient around the board. They allow 71.1 points per game, ranking eighth in the conference, and force the second-fewest turnovers with 9.5 a night. Clemson does excel inside the three-point line, however, averaging 4.1 blocks while holding opponents to 46.4% shooting on two-point field goal attempts.

The fate of Pitt’s season largely rests in its own hands, as a strong finish could net it both an NCAA tournament berth and a two-round bye in the ACC tournament. It won’t come easy against a talented team in Clemson, but the Panthers have proven themselves in similar situations all season. 

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Clemson, South Carolina, and coverage will air on the ACC Network.

About the Contributor
Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer