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Pitt's Star Freshmen Offer Glimpse into Future

The Pitt Panthers' star freshmen offered a look into the future in their ACC semifinal bout with North Carolina.

WASHINGTON, DC -- In their quarterfinal win over Wake Forest, the Pitt Panthers leaned on their veterans. Ishmael Leggett and Blake Hinson combined for 50 of their team's 81 total points, but in the following round, they went cold. As a result, the Panthers turned to standout freshmen Bub Carrington and Jaland Lowe and they delivered. 

These two freshmen, Jaland Lowe  a pair of the youngest players in the ACC and all of college basketball, went toe-to-toe with a team of steely veterans and took the No. 4 team in the land down to the wire. On a night when Pitt's reliable veterans went cold, it was the youngsters who answered he bell and offered a glimpse into the bright future this program has with the two of them running the show. 

“I feel like me and Jaland are one of the best backcourts in the country, honestly," Carrington said. "Just from playing with that guy, living with that guy, seeing how he works — he’s definitely an amazing player and we showed the world, showed the bracketologists … that we belong on the big stage.”

Carrington looked like the best player on the floor. He scored 24 points, shot 9-17 from the field, made 4 of 8 3-point attempts, grabbed five rebounds and dealt three assists while playing a full 40 minutes and taking on the monumental task of guarding ACC Player of the Year, R.J. Davis. Lowe added 17 points, making 7 of 16 shots to go along with four rebounds and four assists, 11 of which came in the second half. 

It was a striking difference from their first meeting with the Tar Heels, when both players were 14 games deep into their first seasons of college basketball and Lowe was making just the second start of his career. Pitt lost that game, 70-57 and while the freshman duo combined for 30 points in that game, they still felt like it was a lackluster showing. 

74 days later, their second meeting with North Carolina was much different. 

"We grew up. First time we weren't ready, as ready as we are now," Lowe said. "Just knowing that they didn't get our best shot at first really motivated us to come into this game tonight and really show them that we really wanted to show them and give them our best shot."

Neither showed any fear in the face of a determined, seasoned group. They hit big shot after big shot when their team needed and kept a Panthers offense that got just 11 combined points from stars Blake Hinson and Ishmael Leggett afloat. 

Both Lowe and Carrington have had tremendous seasons. Carrington has started since game one and been an essential playmaker, scorer and defender. Lowe took longer to get healthy and warm up to the college game, but once he did, accepted the lead point guard role and in turn, allowed Pitt to find it's most efficient backcourt lineups. Both had their struggles but became essential parts of the Panthers' run through the back half of the regular season, during which they won 12 of their last 15 games. 

They're still hungry for more and that hunger should only grow if the Panthers miss out on the NCAA Tournament this season. As far as their ACC Tournament run goes, Carrington feels like there is now unfinished business there, too. 

“In the beginning of the year, we wanted to be champs," Carrington said. "We’re not happy about going to the semifinals, so obviously next year we’re going to try to be champs again and that’s all there is.”

Carrington alluded to "next year" over and over in his postgame press conference, as if it was a given that he was going to return to Pitt for his sophomore season. He said it so casually, as if it was a given. But in a world where the transfer portal beckons to college athletes constantly, offering greener pastures elsewhere, and after a season in which Carrington had shown up in multiple NBA mock drafts, one can never be to certain. Was he serious? Did he already decide to return for his sophomore season?

Lowe, his locker at Capital One Arena placed right next to Carrington, turned quickly when the questions was asked and waited intently for his classmate's response. Even Carrington's roommate and one of his closest friends didn't seem to know what the answer would be.

"For sure," Carrington replied, when asked if he'd be back to play for Pitt next fall.

Who knows what the immediate future holds for these Panthers, who are teetering on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble but could just as easily be headed for the NIT this spring as well. But these freshmen have more to give and more to play for - this year and beyond. So get ready Pitt fans, because Lowe and Carrington have more growing and winning to do. 

“We’re coming back stronger, better," Carrington said. "I feel like we can make the definition of some real noise next year.”

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