Pitt expecting ‘unbelievable challenge’ from No. 20 Miami

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The Pitt Panthers are wary of the Miami Hurricanes, who are ranked 20th in the nation.

Miami (16-4, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is set to visit Pitt (14-7, 7-3) in a league game set for Saturday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Miami pounded Florida State 86-63. Florida State beat Pitt 71-64 last Saturday, marking a contrast.

“We know they’re very good,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said of the Hurricanes. “We know they beat the heck out of Florida State.

“Miami is very talented on both sides of the floor. It will be an unbelievable challenge for us, but we’ll be ready.”

Pitt is coming off an 81-79 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday. The Panthers set a program record with 18 3-pointers, shooting 48.6 percent from deep. Pitt’s Blake Hinson, a 6-foot-7 forward, made 8 of 14 from deep, tying a school record for 3-pointers in one game.

The Panthers, who have won three of their last four games, already own their most conference wins since they went 9-9 in 2015-16. Pitt has 10 ACC games left to add to its win total.

Pitt has lost three players for the season, including their top recruit, Dior Johnson, and starting forwards John Hugley and William Jeffress. Hugley led Pitt last season in scoring (14.8) and rebounds (7.9).

Hinson, a native Floridian, has stepped up, leading Pitt in scoring (16.2) and rebounds (6.4). He is making 37.7 percent of his 3-pointers.

Jamarius Burton, Pitt’s only returning starter, is averaging 15.9 points and a team-high-tying 4.5 assists. Both of those figures are career highs for Burton, who’s attending his third college in five years, following Wichita State and Texas Tech.

Greg Elliott (11.0) and Nelly Cummings (10.2) are Pitt’s other double-figure scorers. The other starter is Federiko Federiko, who has symmetry with his name and his scoring and rebounding, as he averages 5.6 for each.

Isaiah Wong leads Miami in scoring (16.3), assists (3.6) and steals (1.5).

Fellow guard Nijel Pack leads Miami in 3-point shooting (39.1 percent). He ranks second on the team in foul shooting (84.2 percent), and he is fourth in scoring average (12.3). Over his past three games, Pack is shooting 50 percent on 3-pointers while averaging 17.0 points.

Norchad Omier, a 6-7, 248-pounder, is an undersized center averaging 13.7 points and 10.4 rebounds. If he gets in foul trouble — which has been an issue at times this season — Miami faces a severe drop-off in talent.

Jordan Miller, a 6-6, 195-pounder, is Miami’s most versatile player, scoring inside or out. He ranks second on the team in scoring (14.8) and rebounds (5.7), and he is making 37 percent on 3-pointers.

Miami’s fifth starter is Wooga Poplar, who is tied with Wong for the team lead in steals.

“I anticipate the pass,” Poplar said when asked about his defense, “and some land in my hands.”

Miami coach Jim Larranaga said Pitt is a “lights out” 3-point-shooting team.

“Burton is a two-way guard — strong and tough,” Larranaga said. “Hinson and Elliott are outstanding 3-point shooters. They will challenge our defense.”

A concern for Miami is Pitt’s size: 6-11 Federiko, 6-11 Jorge Diaz Graham and his 7-footer brother Guillermo Diaz Graham.

–Field Level Media

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