The Pittsburgh Panthers were in a heavyweight showdown against one of the bluebloods in college basketball and were able to deliver a knockout. Jamarius Burton made two crucial free throws and Nike Sibande attempted the game-winning block that did not officially count on Caleb Love to deliver the Panthers a 65-64 win.
“We have a saying where we are fighting ten rounds,” Nelly Cummings said “It comes down to a lot of times the 10th round you can’t fight nine and then lose the 10th round no we fight all 10 every game”
Fight the Panthers did in a physical battle reminiscent of Pitt’s days in the Big East Conference. On a night where there were 21 fouls called on the Panthers including a technical foul on Nelly Cummins after getting into it with RJ Davis, Pitt continued to swing regardless of the hits they received. Cummings himself led the charge for the Panthers leading the team with 21 points on 8-11 shooting. The senior shot 5-6 from beyond the arc including a crucial three in a row during a crucial 17-4 Panthers run.
It was a major blow to the Panthers when Cummings fouled out with less than two to play in the game. With their backs against the wall and needed to deliver a swing to the champs on the road, North Carolina native Jamarius Burton was able to deliver the Rocky-style punch. With 23.7 seconds left to go in the game, Burton winded the clock down and then attacked the basket with a physicality we saw throughout the game. Burton ended up drawing a foul on RJ Davis with 3.4 seconds to go in the game while the Panthers were in a slump from the line.
From there, Burton was able to deliver on the court he won a state championship on. Nailing the two free throws and putting Pitt in the lead for good and delivering the knockout blow to the Tar Heels. It was an up-and-down night for Burton, he finished on 6-18 from the floor after starting 1-7 in the first half. Still, regardless of the lows Burton never felt deterred, a credit he gave to his team.
“I have coaches and players who believe in me,” Burton said “They just continue to put the battery in my back and continue to give me confidence even when I’m not playing well”
The Panthers were suffocating on the Wooden Award watch list forward Armando Bacot. The game plan was clear to play physical and give nothing easy to try to take Bacot out of rhythm. It was a play that ended up working for the Panthers and frustrated Bacot while only finishing on 3-10 shooting for 15 points. The Panther’s team defense held North Carolina to 18.5% from three and even though they gave up 19 offensive rebounds, still were able to limit the Tar Heel’s second-chance points.
There were some choice words post-game from Jason Capel about being disrespected by the North Carolina program. It was something that coach Jeff Capel opened up a bit about post-game.
“This is the place he always dreamt of playing and he wore that jersey with a lot of pride.” Jeff Capel stated, “Since he has left here there has been a lot of disrespect towards him and one thing happened today and I don’t think it’s coming from within the basketball program. I don’t know who controls their social media but there was a tweet.”
Capel didn’t elaborate on the tweet but did say that he thought they were trolling Jason Capel. The rocky relationship goes back to 2009 while Jeff was at Oklahoma. Jason wore an OU shirt in support of Jeff and was treated poorly by UNC fans until a former player stepped in to say something to the fans.
In the end, Jason Capel, and the rest of the Panthers, got the victory and the bragging rights after completing the season sweep. The Panthers move to 16-7 on the season and 9-3 in ACC play to maintain third in the conference. Pitt is now 6-3 in one-possession games, a testament to how they believe they are never out of the fight. The Panthers will now have six days off as they head back to Pittsburgh and welcome the Louisville Cardinals for a rematch after last month’s 21-point victory.