Pitt hosted Alabama State at the Petersen Events Center and had little trouble disposing of the Hornets.
It just took about 15 minutes of game time before the Panthers actually looked like an ACC team hosting a winless squad from the SWAC.
The final score was 73-54 in favor of Pitt, but it’s not a stretch to say that Alabama State was the better team for the better part of the first half, closing Pitt’s early 10-2 lead and tying the game at 13-all before taking the lead and pushing it to 12.
That’s right: Pitt trailed Alabama State 30-18 with less than six minutes left to play in the first half, and there was no guarantee the Panthers could make up that gap with the way they played early.
Alabama State’s zone defense forced Pitt to rely far too much on its outside shooting, which was unreliable, at best. The Panthers went 3-of-15 from three in the first half, with those shots making up nearly half of their 33 field goal attempts before halftime.
Meanwhile, Alabama State was hitting everything. The Hornets shot 11-of-23 from the floor and 4-of-6 from three to build their 12-point lead. But Pitt’s zone defense eventually slowed down the visitors, and in the final five minutes of the first half, Alabama State hit 2-of-5 shots, missed its one three-point attempt and committed four turnovers.
That gave Pitt an opportunity, and the Panthers took advantage. Blake Hinson got things started when he backed down an Alabama State defender to hit a layup, and John Hugley – working off the bench – followed that with a converted and-1 to cut the lead to seven.
Hugley and Hinson kept up the pressure, scoring five points each as Pitt closed the half on a 12-4 run that sent the teams to the locker room with the Panthers trailing 34-31.
The second half, by contrast, was all Pitt. The 12-4 run that ended the first half continued after halftime, as Alabama State hit just one basket in the first eight minutes of the second half, and when the under-8 media timeout came at the 6:59 mark, the Hornets had just two made field goals since coming out of the locker room.
Conversely, Pitt couldn’t miss. The Panthers made 15-of-29 shots in the second half. That included a sparkling 7-of-14 mark from three.
Hinson led the charge throughout the game scoring a game-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed five rebounds. Hugley had 10 points and nine rebounds, while Nike Sibande got into double figures with 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including a pair of three-point shots.
Pitt played the game without senior guard Jamarius Burton, who was dealing with knee inflammation. As a result, senior point guard Nelly Cummings played the first 38 minutes of the game and put up 10 points, six rebounds and five assists with just two turnovers. Freshman Jorge Diaz Graham added nine points off the bench and made both of his three-point attempts.
Pitt (2-3) broke a three-game losing streak with the win and will play one more game before Thanksgiving when the Panthers host Fairleigh Dickinson on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm.