3-Pointers: Three things that stood out in Pitt's 68-60 win over NC State
Pitt defeated NC State 68-60 on Friday night to open ACC play with a victory. The Panthers now own a 6-3 record on the season and have won five consecutive games. It was an impressive showing for Jeff Capel’s squad, who has seemingly found some momentum in the last few weeks.
Here are three things that stood out most from Pitt’s win over NC State.
The Burton Show
Jamarius Burton is a North Carolina native and he looked right at home on Friday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh. The senior guard poured in a game-high 24 points to help lead his team to a fifth consecutive win. Burton was 9-14 from the field, with all of his makes coming inside the three-point line.
He was a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line and finished with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Burton is in his second season with the Panthers, but that very well could have been his best individual performance to date. He had multiple answers in the second half when it looked like NC State was about to go on a run and get the crowd back into the game. The Wolfpack really had no answer for Burton most of the game, as he was able to use his quickness off the bounce to get into the teeth of the defense.
Burton has been pretty reliable all season long. He came into Friday’s game averaging 14.6 points per game. The senior guard has now scored in double figures in all eight games he has appeared in this season. Burton was the team’s second leading scorer last season, and figured to be one of the team’s most prominent players again this year. Through nine games this season, he has been as reliable as anyone on the team and is playing at an extremely high level. If Pitt is to make any noise this season in the ACC, they will need more big games from Burton, but he is showing he is capable of providing this kind of play on a nightly basis.
Nike is just doing it
Pitt has not gotten the best out of John Hugley through the early part of the season, and because of that the team has had to adapt its play a bit. The Panthers’ current five-game winning streak has been fueled by its backcourt, and that certainly includes the play of sixth man Nike Sibande.
The senior guard scored 10 points off the bench on Friday night against NC State. Sibande hit two clutch shots in second half against The Wolfpack. After NC State cut into Pitt’s lead at 56-50, he came up with a big three-pointer as an answer to quiet the crowd. Later on with 3:05 left, Sibande hit a deep two to extend Pitt’s lead to 11 points.
Sibande has now scored in double figures in three consecutive games, and four out of the last five. He came into the game averaging 6.5 points per game, but is averaging 11.2 over the last five contests.
The Miami (OH) transfer has had a raw deal since coming to Pitt. He was initially ruled ineligible in his first season due to NCAA transfer rules. Sibande then missed all of last season with an ACL injury, but his third season is off to a strong start.
Pitt needs scoring from anywhere it can get it right now, and Sibande is proving to be a reliable sixth man and is able to play starter’s minutes when needed. For the first time in a few seasons, it feels like Jeff Capel has a capable option off the bench as this team just seems deeper than the past two years.
A streak that was a long time coming
Pitt is playing really good basketball right now. After a pair of losses in Brooklyn to Michigan and VCU, the team has now reeled off five straight wins. Both victories this week came on the road against power-five competition.
Not just any power-five competition either.
Pitt beat NC State on Friday night for just the third time in ten years as members of the ACC. The Wolfpack have completely dominated the head-to-head series through the years and had won 12 straight, but Pitt has now won back-to-back games against NC State dating back to last season.
Friday's win was impressive. It was the first time Pitt has won a game in Raleigh since January 4, 2014, which was also the team's first-ever ACC contest.
The current five-game winning streak is the longest since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, when Pitt opened the year with a loss to St. Francis before running off five wins in a row.
During this current stretch of success the most noteworthy thing has been the play Pitt has put on after halftime, as the team is finding different ways to win games down the stretch.
In Monday’s 87-56 win over Northwestern, Pitt showed they could win a high scoring game with crisp passing and hot shooting. In Friday’s win over NC State, the Panthers were able to muck things up defensively. They forced 12 turnovers, including 9 in the second half. Pitt also held NC State leading scorer Jarkel Joiner to 1 point on 0-of-12 shooting from the floor.
Pitt secured two road wins this week and achieved those victories with two different styles. It has been impressive to watch, and for the first time perhaps ever in Jeff Capel’s tenure, he has a team that can fight through adversity. Pitt is winning right now with John Hugley contributing very little. He has scored only two points in the last two games, but it has not slowed this team down much at all.
Pitt has a chance to win a sixth consecutive game on Wednesday, but yet again it won’t be easy. The Panthers will travel to Nashville for a road game against Vanderbilt. The two teams met last season in Pittsburgh with Vanderbilt coming out on top 68-52. The Commodores are 3-4 this season and were picked to finish 12th in the preseason SEC poll. Pitt has a chance to continue to build momentum here in December before conference play ramps up in January.