By Ray Porter Jr.
PITTSBURGH, PA–Fresh off a season that included their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016, The Pitt Panthers Men’s Basketball team hopes to use that as a launching pad to even greater things in the 2023-24 season, but they will have to do so without Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, and Greg Elliott, who all graduated.
Although they are missed, the Panthers added new Freshmen and transfers to go along with the current team, and as they welcomed the NC A&T Aggies to the Petersen Events Center and promptly sent them home after defeating them 100-52 to start the season 1-0.
“First and foremost, it was great to be back out there and especially to be in front of our students.” Said Pitt HC Jeff Capel, last season’s ACC Coach of The Year. “They were incredible; I walked out of the tunnel and saw both zones filled. It was really cool to be back and have a continuation of how we finished off last season with their support. Right now, tonight I am really proud of our team. I. I thought we played really hard, and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Five Pitt players were in Double-Figures, led by Freshman Carlton ‘Bub’ Carrington’s 18 points, but he also led with 12 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming not only the first Pitt player to get a Triple-Double since 1998 (Ricardo Greer), but he’s also only the first player in program history and just the second freshman in ACC history to record a triple-double in their debut.
“Obviously, Bub was terrific. I was really pleased and impressed with how he just let the game come to him,” said Capel. “He continues to play the game the right way, and that’s important for that lead guard position. He can score the basketball, but he also has a really good feel.”
The Petersen Events Center crowd was wondering and hoping if Carrington would get an opportunity for the Triple-Double, and some even groaned when he was taken out of the game with only 1 assist away from accomplishing that feat. But then Capel sent him back in the game, much to the roar of the crowd, and he was able to get it done.
“I do want to thank the Zoo; they were incredible today. It was my first time playing in front of the Zoo and it was an incredible experience,” said Carrington.” I was on the bench and Coach came up to me and said, ‘You’re going back, and you got to get what you got to get.’ I trusted my teammates and they got it for me.”
Sophomore Jorge Diaz-Graham added 14 points off the bench, fellow Sophomore Federiko Federiko and Redshirt Senior Blake Hinson scored 13 and Junior Ishmael Leggett scored 11. Federiko also added 10 rebounds to notch his first double-double of the season.
After the Panthers started the game on a 9-0 run, they increased their lead to 28-11 before they began to cool down and the Aggies caught fire. “We had a period there where we couldn’t make shots. I think we were stuck on maybe about 28 points or something for a little bit. Then this guy, Jorge, got us going, making a couple of threes. That kind of opened the basket for us.” Saind Capel.
From there, the Panthers led 50-15 at halftime and then they opened the second half on a run that helped them cruise to victory.
As a team, the Panthers were 40-71 from the floor (56%), 12-29 from 3-point range (47.4 %), and their biggest opportunity was at the free-throw line where they shot 8-17 (47.1%) and grabbed an astonishing 58 rebounds.
For the Aggies (0-1), Junior Kyle Duke led with 15 points.
The Panthers will now hope to continue their winning ways as they host Binghamton on Friday.
“It feels good to get your feet wet, but it’s the first game and the job’s far from over.” Said Carrington.
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