Pitt suffered an embarrassing 78-63 loss to the Citadel at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday night, but the game had a silver lining of sorts, as it saw Panthers power forward John Hugley post his first double-double since ascending to the college ranks in 2020.
In the season opener, Hugley led the Panthers with 27 points and 10 rebounds. That placed him in a tie with Citadel forward Jason Roche for the game high in points and gave him sole possession of the game high in rebounds. Hugley also put on a good showing at both ends of the floor, with five defensive rebounds and five offensive rebounds in the game.
Unfortunately for Pitt, Femi Odukale was the only other player to make a significant contribution to the team effort, as he came up with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in the game. And with only Hugley and Odukale able to score consistently, Pitt was easily outgunned by the Citadel.
Still, the game marked the long-awaited arrival of Hugley to potential star status, which was a sight to behold in its own right after he came to Pitt as a coveted four-star recruit, endured struggles as a freshman and then nearly saw his career derailed by legal issues.
Of course, the timing of Hugley’s breakout performance is bittersweet, as it comes just months after Justin Champagnie moved onto the professional ranks and Pitt saw three other starters transfer out of the program. Had the team around him remained intact, Pitt could have been poised for a promising season. Instead, the Panthers look likely to stumble through their schedule as they await the return of Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton — and even that won’t solve all Pitt’s problems.
Hugley’s next opportunity to shine will be in the Backyard Brawl on Friday, when Pitt takes on West Virginia at the WVU Coliseum. Pitt will enter the game as an underdog, with ESPN giving West Virginia an 84.7 percent chance to win. And unless Hugley and Odukale get some help from their supporting cast, the game will likely go down in predictable fashion.