Pitt faces Jacksonville, continues to tune up for ACC high gear

·2 min read

Pitt, which will host Jacksonville on Tuesday afternoon, already has been through a lot of adversity this season.

Therefore, Panthers coach Jeff Capel wasn't about to minimize his team's 59-57 victory over St. John's in New York on Saturday, even though he acknowledged the Red Storm was without star Julian Champagnie because of COVID protocols.

Champagnie is the twin brother of former Panthers star Justin Champagnie, who turned pro after last season.

"We beat a good basketball team," Capel said after Jamarius Burton's jumper with 0.4 seconds left lifted Pitt. "We need to move forward with this, and hopefully it's something we can build on."

Tuesday's nonconference game before ACC play kicks into high gear should give Capel a chance to continue to fine-tune. The Panthers (4-7) have been forced to play a deliberate style without guards Nike Sibande, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Ithiel Horton, suspended indefinitely because of an alleged assault.

"The thing I'm most proud of with this group," Capel said, "and I tell them all the time, (is) they continue to show up, and that can be hard when things aren't going well. ... I think we're getting better, and hopefully this will give us some confidence."

Burton, who is averaging 11.0 points per game, and Femi Odukale (10.8) are more skilled at penetrating than shooting from the perimeter. The Panthers are hitting only 28.7 percent from 3-point range and depend on 6-foot-9 John Hugley (15.1 points, 8.0 rebounds) inside.

Jacksonville (7-3) is 4-3 against Division I competition this season and beat the NAIA's Webber International 87-48 on Saturday.

"I think our guys, for the most part, understood the game plan," Dolphins coach Jordan Mincy said afterward. "They carried out the assignment. But at the same time, there are certain areas we've got to get better at.

"We'll get to practice and try to clean up some of those areas."

The Dolphins are led in scoring by Jordan Davis (11.2 ppg) and Kevion Nolan (11.0). Jacksonville was competitive in road losses to Minnesota and Georgia, losing by 11 both times. The main problem was 3-point shooting, with the Dolphins going a cumulative 6-for-33 (18.1 percent) in those games.

--Field Level Media