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Don’t look now, but Pitt is slowly creeping up the ACC rankings

The Panthers shot 44.9 percent from the field–including 40 percent from three-point range (10 of 25)–as they knocked off a struggling Notre Dame team, 70-60, at Petersen Events Center on Saturday.

The win improved Pitt’s record to 14-8, overall, and 5-6 in the ACC. After starting out 1-5 in conference play, the Panthers have won four of their last five games, and are now in eighth place out of 15 teams.

Senior forward Blake Hinson led all Panthers scorers with 17 points on the day and was four of six from three-point range.

The Fighting Irish opened up an early six-point advantage on the road, but Pitt rebounded late in the first half to take a 28-22 lead into the locker room.

It looked like it would be a dogfight after Notre Dame guard Markus Burton hit a deep three-pointer early in the second half to tie the score at 30, but the Panthers began to dominate after that and led by as many as 17 points down the stretch.

One of the keys to Saturday’s win was the Panthers’ ability to take advantage of their many trips to the free-throw line. The Panthers made only nine of 16 attempts in a recent road loss at Miami but were able to connect on 17 of their 22 shots vs. the Fighting Irish.

Saturday’s victory was the 300th for the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center (The Pete), which first opened for basketball to begin the 2002/2003 season.

The Panthers, who are looking to make back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since the 2013 and 2014 seasons, still have a lot of work to do. Pitt is firmly on the bubble and currently 64th in the now all-important Net Rankings and Quad Wins category.

If you remember, Pitt sat squarely on the bubble for most of last year, despite finishing with a 21-10 record in the regular season–including a 14-6 mark in the ACC. The Panthers entered the tournament field as an 11th seed and had to win a play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, just to qualify for that.

Obviously, it figures to be much tougher for the Panthers this time around, but they have a chance to really improve their status in the immediate future. Next up are back-to-back road games, starting with NC State this Wednesday. The Wolfpack are in fourth place in the ACC with a 7-4 record. Pitt then travels to Virginia on February 13 to battle a Cavaliers team that enters this week in second place in the conference with an 8-3 mark.

A split would be more than admirable, but back-to-back road victories could ramp up Pitt’s tournament hopes heading down the stretch of the 2023/2024 campaign.

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