Pitt Ends Regular Season with 81-73 win vs. NC State

Coach Jeff Capel led the Panthers to the 4th seed in the ACC, which is the highest seed for the Panthers since joining the conference. Image Credit: Vince Butts/UMT.

By Ray Porter Jr.

PITTSBURGH–It was Senior Night for 3 members of the Pitt Panthers basketball team and as they honored Seniors Blake Hinson, Will Jeffress & KJ Marshall with their families before the game and then provided a huge exclamation point as they defeated the NC State Wolfpack 81-73 in front of a packed house at the Petersen Events Center.

“I’m going to start off by thanking our fans, and especially the Oakland Zoo,” said Pitt head coach Jeff Capel. “For them to show up like this today, with it being spring break and to have that section full, we all are incredibly grateful for that. For the rest of the fans that made this night for Blake, KJ, and Will just really special, we’re just really incredibly grateful for that.”

Hinson closed out his regular season with another stellar game with 21 points and 2 huge three-pointers. “We can’t say enough about Blake and what he has meant to this program. He gives the message to our team in practice every day,” Capel remarked. “These guys believe in him and what he has meant for this program. Our paths crossed for a reason. We needed him and he needed us, and it has been an unbelievable journey that we have been on together and grateful that we still have more to do.”

But for once, Hinson wasn’t the leading scorer as Freshman Bub Carrington led Pitt with 23 points, which included 4 three-pointers. He also added 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Center Federiko Federiko led with 8 rebounds and 6 assists as the Panthers (21-10, 12-8 ACC) overcame a slow start and eventually took the lead in the first half they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game.

“We’re moving the ball more. The ball has a lot of energy when we’re playing,” said Carrington. “Everyone is just happy for each other. Everyone wants to see each other succeed. I feel like when you have teammates that are thinking like that, the ball is going to go in.”

The Panthers dominated the interior with 26 of the team’s 39 first-half points coming from inside the paint, and finished with 40 points in the paint compared to NC State’s 28. They also outscored NC State 14-3 on fast break points and 14-9 on second-chance points. Pitt shot 50 percent (32-of-64) from the field, 40 percent from three-point range (8-of-20), and 75 percent (9-of-12) from the foul line, their third consecutive game shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

“Trust in yourself and trust in your teammates.”  Said Carrington. “It’s really just staying confident, knowing who I am, and knowing what I can do. It’s about stepping up and knocking it down.”

But the win certainly wasn’t an easy one as the Wolfpack (17-14, 9-11 ACC) also used the 3-pointer to chip away at the Panthers’ lead (led by Jayden Taylor’s 28 points and 5 threes) “Let’s not forget, NC State is a good team. They gave us their best fight. We just outlasted them.”

With the win, the Panthers earned the No. 4 seed and a double bye in the ACC Tournament. The #4 seed is the highest for the Panthers since joining the ACC. Their goal is to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, and they know that it behooves them to make a strong impression in the ACC Tournament (their first game will be Thursday at 2:30 pm) especially since the NET rankings don’t favor them at the moment.

Capel deserves ACC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year for bringing his team from a 1-5/last-place Conference start.

“It’s a big deal. I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for the guys we have in our program and our staff. It would have been easy to roll over when we were 1‐5, and we were headed to play Duke,” said Capel. “But we believed, they believed in us, and we believed in each other. We learned how to fight. We have really good guys, and they were able to turn this thing around…All we’ve talked about is that we just have to win. We just have to keep winning. We’ve had a 1‐0 mentality. That’s all we’ve talked about for this game and all we will talk about moving forward.”

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