It’s been a long year but the Pitt Panthers (8-16, 0-11 ACC) are staying optimistic as they head into a matchup on the road with the No. 16 Clemson Tigers (19-4, 8-3 ACC) Thursday night at 7 p.m.
After St. John’s win this past week, the Panthers are the only school in a power-5 conference without a conference win. They suffered a rather embarrassing defeat against No. 19 North Carolina this weekend, 96-65. Clemson is coming off of an 8-point victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.
The ACC is a tough conference and the very experience devoid Panthers will face their third ranked opponent in the last six games when they take the court Thursday. They will be looking to break a program long 11-game losing streak but are unlikely to do so tonight.
The Tigers go into the game as comfortable favorites and have won the last three matchups against the Panthers. They will be led by Marcquise Reed, a redshirt junior averaging 15.9 points per game and Gabe DeVoe who has hit five three-pointers in three straight games and is the third player in Clemson history to do so.
The Panthers will be led by junior Jared Wilson-Frame (13.0 points per game) and freshman Marcus Carr (11.0 points per game) on a Panthers team averaging only 63.8 points per game while allowing 71.3.
Despite a slow start to conference play, Carr has heated up significantly hitting double-digits in four of his past five games. He has 14.6 points and 5.8 assists per game in that span. He is the Panthers ball handler heading up the court and the team will go as he goes. It’s a lot of responsibility for a young freshman guard in the ACC but when he’s on, he’s proven he can handle it fine.
Donte Gratham, Clemson’s senior leader, suffered a torn ACL five games ago and is out for the season. DeVoe has stepped up and taken over Gratham’s scoring as he leads the team with 19.3 points per game since Gratham’s injury. This is where the Panthers are hurting.
Pitt can’t seem to find anyone who can replace senior Ryan Luther’s production since he was hurt right around the time of conference play and it has hindered the Panthers considerably.
Maybe the Panthers can at least make the Tigers sweat and work for their win tonight. Or the Tigers will embarrass Pitt much like the Tar Heels did on Saturday.