STANZ: Takeaways from Pitt’s win over Mississippi State

Mar 14, 2023; Dayton, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Guillermo Diaz Graham (25) celebrates a play in the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State has its opponent for Friday’s NCAA Tournament first round game in Greensboro.

The Pitt Panthers advanced into the round of 64 with a thrilling 60-59 win over Mississippi State in the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday. The Panthers moved to 23-11 with the win and finished tied for third in the ACC this season with a 14-6 record in conference play.

Iowa State and Pitt have played basketball against each other only once before, back in 1981, in a game the Panthers won 81-65 in Portland.

Here are a few takeaways from Pitt’s win over the Bulldogs:

*** The Panthers securing the win simply came down to their ability to make more shots than Mississippi State. I know, duh. That’s the point of the game.

But, neither team tore of the nets in this contest. Pitt did just enough against the Bulldogs’ elite defense to come out on top, and that’s largely because Mississippi State’s offense was really, really not good.

It was a hottly contested game throughout with the largest lead both ways reaching only six points.

Pitt secured its largest lead of the night after Blake Hinson connected on a deep 3-pointer to make it 58-52 with 3:13 to play. Mississippi State was in the midst of a four-plus minute scoreless streak at the time, which was one of the themes of this game.

The Bulldogs broke out of that drought by scoring seven straight points in roughly a minute and a half to take a 59-52 lead with a little more than 30 seconds left to play.

Jamarius Burton’s mid-range jumper with 14 seconds left sealed the win for Pitt in a game that featured roughly 20 lead changes.

*** Mississippi State’s inability to put the ball in the basket was what really defined this game. The Bulldogs were the aggressors defensively and really dictated the pace of the game from the opening tip.

They just couldn’t make a freaking shot.

After starting the game 4-of-5 from 3-point range prior to the under-16 timeout of the first half, the Bulldogs finished just 6-of-23 from 3-point range, and a significant number of those shots were what amounted to wide open shots.

They shot just 38.1 percent from the field while out-rebounding Pitt, 49-28, and securing 18 offensive rebounds.

Rebounding will be an important area of Friday’s game, and it is something I would expect Iowa State hopes to dominate in a similar fashion. The Cyclones will need to do a better job taking advantage of those opportunities than what Mississippi State did.

*** Pitt’s win was fueled by timely shot-making and efficienct shot selection from downtown. The Panthers were 9-of-19 from 3-point range, and did a solid job of navigating Mississippi State’s defense.

The Bulldogs did a great job of forcing Pitt to make difficult shots. The Panthers just made the most important ones when it mattered most.

The formula for Iowa State will be much the same with an added emphasis on creating turnovers.

*** Limiting Burton’s ability to get into the paint and collapse the defense will be another of Iowa State’s biggest keys. The 6-foot-4 senior guard doesn’t shoot from deep often, but he’s capable.

He does most of his damage attacking the rim, scoring in the mid-range, finishing around the basket and creating opportunities for others. He’s shooting 53 percent on 2-point shots this season and is one of the team’s leaders in assist rate.

*** Hinson, who spent approximately a year and a half with the Iowa State program, but never played a game, is the kind of guy who is open the second he walks in the gym. He’s not afraid to pull that thing from anywhere, as proven by his deep 3-pointer late to give Pitt its biggest lead.

He’ll also work the mid-post area if he feels he has a favorable matchup down low.

*** Nelly Cummings was the team’s most effective player against Mississippi State, tallying a game-high 15 points on 6-of-13 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. He’s the team’s leader in assist rate and will be equally important to keep out of the middle of the defense as Burton.

*** Iowa State currently sits as a four-point favorite on Friday, according to KenPom. The Cyclones will be favored in this game, and I think they should be.

Of the two teams, this is the one I probably would have leaned toward wanting to see Iowa State play. I believe a team playing a style different than Iowa State’s is a better match-up for this Cyclone team at this point in the year.

Iowa State cannot allow Pitt to get into an early rhythym and find its shooting stroke. Keeping the Panthers off balance and being the aggressor from the opening tip will dictate how this game plays out.

Mississippi State didn’t hit enough shots to beat Pitt on Tuesday.

Iowa State hopes to reverse the fortune on Friday.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.