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Pitt, Clemson put fast ACC starts to the test

Dec 20, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Blake Hinson (2) talks to his teammates in the second half against the Syracuse Orange at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

First place in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be on the line on Saturday when Pitt and Clemson meet in a game between two teams that were projected to finish near the bottom of the standings.

Pitt (11-4, 4-0), which was picked in the preseason media poll to finish second-to-last, extended its winning streak to five games with a 68-65 home win over No. 11 Virginia on Tuesday.

Clemson (12-3, 4-0), which was picked to finish 11th of 15 teams, has won four straight after a 68-65 victory over host Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

After Pitt used a 14-0 run midway through the second half to erase Virginia’s 44-32 lead and take a two-point lead, the Cavaliers tied the game 60-60 following Isaac McKneely’s 3-pointer with 1:47 to go.

Federiko Federiko’s layup with a minute remaining gave the Panthers a 62-60 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Panthers made 6 of 6 from the free-throw line to secure the win and improve to 4-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2013-14 season.

“You have to be tough for 40 minutes, you have to be together, and you have to fight (to beat Virginia),” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “Once we got into the rhythm of the game in the second half, we were able to do some really, really good things.”

Blake Hinson, who averages a team-high 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, had 16 points and three rebounds. Nike Sibande, who averages 6.5 points, also had 16. Jamarius Burton, who averages 15.7 points, added 15 points and four rebounds.

Clemson is 4-0 in ACC play for just the third time in program history and for the first time since 1996-97.

The Tigers made five free throws in the final 26 seconds to secure the win after the Hokies pulled to within 63-62 with 43 seconds to go.

“We’re just trying to continue to get better, play good basketball and figure out how to win some tough games,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “That’s what we did tonight.”

Five Tigers scored in double figures, led by Hunter Tyson, who had 13 points and game-high 14 rebounds. PJ Hall added 13 points, Chase Hunter had 12 points and four assists, while Brevin Galloway and RJ Godfrey added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Tyson averages a team-high 15.5 points and 10.0 rebounds, while Hunter chips in 14.5 points and a team-high 4.6 assists. Hall and Galloway average 12.6 and 10.0 points, respectively.

–Field Level Media