Panthers Season Swept Away by Hurricanes, Fall 79-73 in ACC Tournament First Round
By Ben Bobeck, Sports Director
GREENSBORO, NC The #12 Pitt Panthers’ (10-12, 6-11) adventure of a 2020-2021 season came to a close Tuesday, as disciplined defense and execution at the foul line led the #13 Miami Hurricanes (9-16, 4-13) to a 79-73 win in the first round of 2021 New York Life ACC Tournament in Greensboro, NC.
In a game with 13 lead changes and seven ties, neither team had a solid hold until the final two minutes when Miami pieced together a 9-0 run after trailing 66-64 with 3:336 to play. The stretch was accentuated by two Panther turnovers and the ‘Canes taking advantage of their trips to the free throw line, finishing with 22 points from the stripe on 28 attempts (78.6%). During what would stand as the game winning stretch, Miami took three trips to the foul line including an and-one of an emphatic slam by senior center Nasir Brooks who would convert the three point play.
“They played better than us this afternoon.,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said postgame. “They were able to score more, and we didn’t do a great job of stopping them. They have a really talented offensive group of guys, and that was on display this afternoon.”
Standout sophomore guard Isaiah Wong led Miami with 20 points and four assists. For the Panthers, their depth scoring was limited with just four different players registering points. Most of Pitt’s offensive output came from freshman guard Femi Odukale, who had a career high 28, and redshirt senior Nike Sibande who added 24. Sophomore forward and First Team All-ACC honoree Justin Champagnie registered his 14th double-double of the season in a difficult game shooting.
Odukale was particularly effective in driving to the basket, even against the length and physicality of the Hurricane’s Brooks and forward Anthony Walker.
“That’s just a New York thing to me,” the Brooklyn native said. ” I’d go to the park every day and we’d go like try to make lay-ups and just be tough. That’s just something I always had in my game.”
Capel expressed his gratitude following the loss to his player’s ability to perservere through a season ripe with adversity in COVID-19 protocols and other off-court issues.
“I’m really, really grateful to my team and really, really proud of them for the effort that we had all year, ” Capel said
This is the first loss in the tournament’s first round in the Panther’s three appearances under coach Jeff Capel. Miami and coach Jim Larrañaga will advance to face #5 Clemson Wednesday, while Pitt while return home and look to build for next season.
Find highlights from WPTS Radio’s live broadcast of the action from Greensboro here.