Game Time: 7:00
Opponent: NC State Wolfpack
Head Coach: Kevin Keatts
Last Game: W 85-64 vs. William & Mary
2021 Season: 11-21 (4-16 15th in ACC)
Top Player: G Jarkel Joiner (17.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.6 APG)
The Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3) opens their ACC schedule in Raleigh tonight, fresh off their best performance of the season in a win over Northwestern. The Panthers face a tough task, as the 7-1 Wolfpack squad is a much-improved version of the team that finished bottom of the ACC last season.
NC State’s lone loss is a tight contest with Kansas, and they also have a relatively impressive win over a once-ranked Dayton squad. It’s a three headed attack on the offensive end for Coach Keatts, with G Jarkel Joiner, G Terquavion Smith, and G Casey Morsell averaging 14.5+ points per game. Morsell is lethal from beyond the arc, currently shooting 53% from beyond the arc to start the year, hitting six in his last game.
Smith is the head facilitator of the bunch, leading the team in assists per game with 5.3. Joiner is second on the team with 3.6. Both succeed as facilitators as well as scorers, and Nelly Cummings and Blake Hinson will likely be the ones who attempt to hold them in check.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
What Pitt team are we going to see tonight? Playing their ninth game of the season tonight Pitt has yet to establish an identity and the thrashing of Northwestern serves as more of an outlier than it does a true representation of what we’ve seen so far. If Pitt can keep shooting threes at a pace like that of their last game, they could be looking at a 1-0 start to conference play.
Unselfish play was also a big part of the success in Evanston. Pitt out-assisted Northwestern 22-15 thanks in part to at least five dimes each from Burton, Hinson, and Cummings. Even with zero points from John Hugley IV the Panthers systematically broke down what was a top-ten defense in the country.
If there is one player this game hinges on, it is certainly Jamarious Burton. Burton’s decision making has been something of a roller coaster this season, so to see an outstanding game for him (14 pts 7 ast) turn into something solid for the whole team proves his importance. If he limits the turnovers tonight and helps Cummings facilitate Coach Capel’s game plan, we’re in for a good contest.
The last time I predicted a score I was over 30+ points wrong in the score differential, so don’t put much faith in me but I have Pitt proving to the ACC that they are better than the conference may have thought they were heading into this season. Panthers 76, Wolfpack 70.