PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Another great effort game from the Panthers, this time able to finish better beating Wake Forest 70-57 in the final home game of the season.
“I’m really proud of my basketball team,” said head coach Jeff Capel. “This is two games in a row where I feel like we’ve played really well, really together. We fought together. We’ve been all in about us and the things we need to do to win.”
“Happy for them. Really pleased with how we’ve come together these past couple of games.”
He had 43 points combined as a Panther coming into the game. Graduate senior Nike Sibande had the best game of his Pitt career playing 37 minutes, going 7-13 from the floor (2-4 from 3) and 6-6 FT for 23 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
“Nike was outstanding,” Capel said. “Got us going offensively, was efficient. I think he’s starting to get into a rhythm. The last four games he’s been able to play a lot of minutes. He’s gotten better and better each game.”
“Confidence just comes with me coming out on the floor more,” Sibande said. “Seeing more options, getting more experience. It’s me getting more comfortable every game.”
Sibande played 2 minutes on Valentine’s Day, since then has started every game scoring 47 points with 22 rebounds.
There is a chance Sibande will return next season.
“It’s a decision behind closed doors,” Sibande said. “Talking to Coach Capel and just figuring some things out.”
“Whatever we gotta do to figure out a way we can win. I’m all for it. If that comes with me staying. He feels like I can be a piece to help compete and win here. I’ll sacrifice and do that.”
Justin Champagnie finished with a 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 13 rebounds. The sophomore has had double-digit points and rebounds in 8 of the last 9 games.
Champagnie did it efficiently on 7-13 shooting, raising his season field goal percentage to .496.
For a fourth straight game Pitt finished double digits in offensive rebounds, 10 against the Demon Deacons for 11 second chance points. Panthers were a plus 19 on the glass overall on Tuesday.
Final home game
The lone senior, Terrell Brown got the start in his final game at the Pete. The center played 13 minutes with 4 points and 4 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of Terrell,” Capel said. “This generation of young people, a lot of times they don’t stick things out when things become difficult. When adversity hits. They have been taught that it’s ok to run, to leave.”
“What Terrell and that group that came into the University of Pittsburgh as freshmen went through was horrific. It was really, really bad. The stories that I heard. I feel for every one of those guys that had to experience that. I’m proud of Terrell for sticking it out. There was something about the University of Pittsburgh and our program that made him want to be here.”
“Really proud of him for how much he’s grown. Take basketball away, how much he’s grown as a man.”