The Pittsburgh Panthers Men’s basketball opened their 2022-2023 campaign tonight against the UT-Martin Skyhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference and came away with an 80-58 win.
In a tilt that featured multiple technicals, and an ejection of UT-Martin star and former Panther Parker Stewart, the Panthers turned a shaky start into a dominant performance.
It only took one game for Blake Hinson to establish that he is the focal point of this team, and his 27-point, 13-rebound performance should only inspire confidence for what is to come.
Pitt’s basketball season got off to a cold start, as the Panthers were 3 for their first 12 FGA to begin the game. Hinson was the first one to open the contest, with the Iowa State transfer knocking down a layup low in the post after scooping an offensive rebound. Pitt’s next basket came on a gorgeous assist from Nelly Cummings as he lofted a pass to Federiko Federiko for a beautiful alley-oop.
Hinson’s impact was felt often and early, and the box score reflected that. With a +/- of 15, the Panthers fared their best with him on the court. He was out-muscling UT-Martin down low, especially on the boards. With Federiko, Hinson, and Guillermo Diaz Graham leading the way, the Panthers out-rebounded the Skyhawks 28-16, limiting any second-chance point opportunities.
Nelly Cummings took up more of a facilitator role in the first half, with a game-high 5 AST. The Colgate transfer utilized the pick-and-roll to great success, first dishing out some passes that lead to easy buckets down low, only to kick out a pass to Greg Elliott for a triple when the Skyhawks attempt to overplay the passing lanes.
Those hoping to see improved shooting from beyond the arc in 2022 left the first half less than satisfied, as the Panthers only mustered 5 makes on 22 attempts, good for a 22.7% rate.
Federiko Federiko and Greg Elliott both caught technicals during the first half of action, Elliott on a flop warning and Federiko for hanging on the rim following a missed dunk, although it was clear Federiko was just stabilizing himself.
The second half was all Pitt, all half. Hinson continued to dominate, putting up 16 points while Elliott (2-2 3FG) contributed in a modestly improved Panther 3-point barrage, going 6-19 as a team.
Early in the second half following a made basket Parker Stewart got tangled up with Blake Hinson that ended with Hinson on the ground near half court. With Hinson sent to the ground, Nelly Cummings rushed to the defense of his teammate and got in the face of Stewart, with shoves thrown in both directions.
Following a lengthy discussion at the scorers’ table, two flagrant fouls assessed to Stewart sent him to the locker room while Cummings and Hinson both were on the receiving end of technicals.
The game concluded with a fifth and final technical for the Panthers, as Jorge Diaz Graham got T’d up for a little finger waggle after a block.
Either Pitt is in fact a good basketball team, or they were effectively masquerading as one for roughly 75% of today’s game. While UT-Martin does not replicate the intensity or talent of an ACC matchup, the Panthers dominated in nearly all facets of the game just like a good team would. Everyone seemed to serve their roles well. Elliott provided key shooting in the second half, Cummings dropped 7 dimes, tied for 2nd-most in his career. Jamarius Burton had 10 PTS, 7 AST, and 5 REB as he served a big role in the dominance too.
The Backyard Brawl, basketball edition, comes to town this Friday night as West Virginia hopes to avoid a basketball/football sweep at the hands of the Panthers.